Obama says Cheney approach "hasn't made us safer"

WASHINGTON Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:40pm EDT

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk toward Marine One as they depart the White House in Washington to spend the weekend at Camp David March 21, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk toward Marine One as they depart the White House in Washington to spend the weekend at Camp David March 21, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama hit back at former Vice President Dick Cheney's criticism of his policies on terrorism suspects, saying Cheney's approach had brought the United States scorn instead of security.

Obama told CBS network's "60 Minutes" program that the policy on detainees at Guantanamo Bay military prison under the administration of former President George W. Bush had been "unsustainable".

"How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney? It hasn't made us safer. What it has been is a great advertisement for anti-American sentiment," Obama said, according to excerpts released by CBS on Saturday. The interview was to be broadcast on Sunday,

Cheney recently told CNN television that Obama's revamped policies on terrorism suspects would make the United States more vulnerable to attack.

Soon after taking office on January 20, Obama started rolling back some of the Bush administration's national security policies. Obama ordered the closing of Guantanamo, Cuba, within a year, and an end to the harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects.

Pressed by the CBS interviewer that some of the prisoners released from Guantanamo have returned to terrorist groups, Obama said: "There is no doubt that we have not done a particularly effective job in sorting through who are truly dangerous individuals ... to make sure (they) are not a threat to us."

Obama said, however, that decisions that land on his desk are often a choice "between bad and worse." His hardest decision thus far, he told CBS, was sending an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan.

Earlier this week White House spokesman Robert Gibbs poured scorn on Cheney's comments about Obama's terrorism policies. Gibbs called the former vice president part of a "Republican cabal" along with conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwall; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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