CIA chief believes Cheney almost wants U.S. attacked

WASHINGTON Sun Jun 14, 2009 4:10pm EDT

Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta delivers remarks at a National Italian American Foundation policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 11, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta delivers remarks at a National Italian American Foundation policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 11, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - CIA director Leon Panetta says it's almost as if former vice president Dick Cheney would like to see another attack on the United States to prove he is right in criticizing President Barack Obama for abandoning the "harsh interrogation" of terrorism suspects.

"I think he smells some blood in the water on the national security issue," Panetta said in an interview published in The New Yorker magazine's June 22 issue.

"It's almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point."

Cheney, who was a key advocate in the Bush administration of controversial interrogation methods such as waterboarding, has become as a leading Republican critic of Obama's ban on harsh interrogations and his plan to shut the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In a blistering May 21 speech, Cheney said Obama's reversal of Bush-era policies were "unwise in the extreme" that would make the American people less safe.

Panetta called Cheney's actions "dangerous politics."

He told The New Yorker he had favored the creation of an independent truth commission to look into the detainee polices of former President George W. Bush. But the idea died in April when Obama decided such a panel could be seen as politically vindictive.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Alan Elsner)

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