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Cheney: Obama policies risk catastrophic attacks

Former vice president Dick Cheney. Image courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 4, 2009
Former vice president Dick Cheney has warned that President Barack Obama's anti-terror policies risk exposing the United States to a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack.

In his first interview since Obama's inauguration, with Politico Tuesday, Cheney was unapologetic about the bitter controversies surrounding his own influential role in president George W. Bush's "war on terror."

Cheney said Obama would regret his commitment to closing down the Guantanamo Bay internment camp and ending harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects.

"These are evil people. And we're not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek," he said in the interview, conducted at an office near Cheney's new home in Washington's Virginia suburbs.

He said the "ultimate threat" facing the country since the September 11 attacks of 2001 was if extremists can unleash "a nuclear weapon or a biological agent of some kind" in the center of a US city.

"That's the one that would involve the deaths of perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, and the one you have to spend a hell of a lot of time guarding against," Cheney said.

"I think there's a high probability of such an attempt," he added.

"Whether or not they can pull it off depends whether or not we keep in place policies that have allowed us to defeat all further attempts, since 9/11, to launch mass-casualty attacks against the United States."

Leading up to the end of the Bush administration, both the outgoing president and Cheney gave a series of exit interviews defending their conduct in the "war on terror" and insisting they had left the nation safer.

Politico said Cheney declined to criticize Obama personally, but was eager to attack the Democrats in general over a mammoth economic stimulus bill under debate in Congress.

He said he had spoken to Bush about a week ago, for the first time since they left Washington on January 20. Politico said Cheney had recovered from the back strain that kept him to a wheelchair at Obama's inauguration.

Cheney said Bush was "fine."

"We had a pleasant chat on the phone. It was a private, personal conversation -- not about policy. We're both citizens, civilians."

Cheney, a former defense secretary and White House chief of staff who is regarded as the most powerful vice president in history, recapped that he is working on his memoirs.

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