Cheney "wrong" on facts: Obama

WASHINGTON Mon Jun 1, 2009 7:39pm EDT

Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and President Barack Obama are seen in a combination file photo. REUTERS/File

Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and President Barack Obama are seen in a combination file photo.

Credit: Reuters/File

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday struck back at one of his toughest critics, saying former Vice President Dick Cheney was wrong when he criticized White House plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.

"He also happens to be wrong. Last time, immediately after his speech, I think there was a fact check on his speech that didn't get a very good grade," Obama told NPR News.

Cheney has emerged as one of the toughest critics of Obama's handling of terrorism, as well as the staunchest defender of policies that former President George W. Bush implemented after the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

In a blistering speech last month at the American Enterprise Institute, Bush's former vice president said Obama had jeopardized U.S. national security by deciding to close Guantanamo by January 2010.

Cheney also pressed Obama to release classified memos which he said would show that harsh interrogation techniques practiced at Guantanamo had obtained useful information.

White House aides said Obama was referring in the interview to a McClatchy Newspapers report which combed through Cheney's speech and concluded it contained a number of "omissions, exaggerations and misstatements."

Obama told NPR News he did not think Cheney's criticism was making it harder for the United States to show the world a clean break from Bush administration policies.

"I think these are complicated issues and there is a legitimate debate to be had about national security. And I don't doubt the sincerity of the former vice president or the previous administration in wanting to protect the American people," Obama said. "These are difficult decisions."

For the McClatchy report, click on:

here

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Paul Simao)

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