Keeping America Safe
An Address by Former Vice President Dick Cheney
About This Event

In April 2009, almost eight years after the deadliest terrorist attack in American history, the Obama administration released four memos from the Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel. These memos, which justified the use of harsh interrogation techniques against high-level al Qaeda detainees such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind Listen to Audio

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of the 9/11 attacks, have reignited a fierce debate about the United States' counterterrorism strategy.

Amid claims that the interrogation methods amount to torture and that those who approved them should be prosecuted or censured, it is clear that we know surprisingly little about the scope and efficacy of the Bush administration’s national security policy. Many questions linger: What type of information did enhanced interrogation methods yield? Were lives saved as a result? Could that intelligence have been effectively collected by other means? How effective was the terrorist surveillance program in detecting the threat of al Qaeda and its operatives in the post-9/11 period? Will inhibiting these procedures cost more American lives?

On May 21, former vice president Dick Cheney will speak at AEI to address these critical issues and provide a blueprint for keeping America safe in the future.

Event Summary

WASHINGTON, MAY 21, 2009--Today, President Barack Obama and former vice president Dick Cheney presented competing views of how America was kept secure after 9/11--and how to proceed in the future. Mr. Cheney, who has rejoined the AEI Board of Trustees since leaving government in January, gave a widely covered speech at AEI just minutes after President Obama spoke. The president defended his ban on enhanced interrogation techniques and his plans to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Mr. Cheney first documented the threats the nation faced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and how the Bush administration shaped the nation's response. The post-9/11 "comprehensive strategy" has "required the commitment of many thousands of troops in two theaters of war, with high points and some low points in both Iraq and Afghanistan--and at every turn, the people of our military carried the heaviest burden," he said. "Well over seven years into the effort, one thing we know is that the enemy has spent most of this time on the defensive--and every attempt to strike inside the United States has failed."

Key to the successful post-9/11 strategy, Mr. Cheney said, was "accurate intelligence"--including that received through enhanced interrogation. "The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed," he explained. "They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do. . . . [T]o completely rule out enhanced interrogation methods in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness, and would make the American people less safe."

President Obama's decisions on enhanced interrogation and Guantanamo Bay are expressions of a belief that the War on Terror is not actually a war, the former vice president said. But, so that Americans can decide for themselves about whether the extraordinary measures of the past seven years were and remain justified, Mr. Cheney argued that the Obama administration should declassify memos that explain what was learned from the interrogations. "For all that we've lost in this conflict, the United States has never lost its moral bearings," Mr. Cheney concluded. "And when the moral reckoning turns to the men known as high-value terrorists, I can assure you they were neither innocent nor victims. As for those who asked them questions and got answers: they did the right thing, they made our country safer, and a lot of Americans are alive today because of them."

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Keeping America Safe
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