WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney said Thursday that he sees no reason for President George W. Bush to pre-emptively pardon anyone at the CIA involved in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists. "I don't have any reason to believe that anybody in the agency did anything illegal," he said.
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In an interview with The Associated Press, Cheney also said that Bush has no need to apologize for not foreseeing the economic crisis.
"I don't think he needs to apologize. I think what he needed to do is take bold, aggressive action and he has," Cheney said.
"I don't think anybody saw it coming," he said.
During a wide-ranging interview lasting about 25 minutes, Cheney also said Iran remains at the top of the list of foreign policy challenges that President-elect Barack Obama will face. He said an "irresponsible withdrawal" from Iraq now would be ill-advised. And he said he's confident that North Korea helped Syria build a reactor — a site that Israel suspected of being a nuclear installation and bombed in 2007.
After Obama takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, the 67-year-old Cheney plans to possibly write a book and spend time with his wife, Lynne, their two daughters and six grandchildren. He and his wife will split their time between their house in Virginia and their hometown of Casper, Wyo.
An avid angler, Cheney said the first river he wants to fish is the South Fork of the Snake River on the Wyoming-Idaho border.
Cheney is leaving the White House after a government career that spans four decades. He joined the Nixon administration in 1969, serving at the Cost of Living Council, the Office of Economic Opportunity and within the White House. He was President Ford's chief of staff. Cheney was elected in 1977 as the sole congressman from Wyoming and re-elected five times to the House. He was defense secretary from March 1989 to January 1993, directing Operation Desert Storm in the Middle East.
The vice president often laughs off talk that he played his role as second-in-command like a wizard, controlling the levers of the presidency from behind the scenes. Still, Cheney will go down in history as one of, perhaps, the most influential vice presidents in U.S. history.
During the interview, he strongly defended the administration's terrorist-fighting policies.
He said the administration rightly used programs to intercept communications of suspected terrorists and use tough methods to interrogate high-value detainees. He also said he did not have any qualms about the reliability of intelligence obtained through waterboarding — an interrogation technique used on three top al-Qaida operatives in 2002 and 2003.
"It's been used with great discrimination by people who know what they're doing and has produced a lot of valuable information and intelligence," he said, sitting in an arm chair in his West Wing office.
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