Cheney: attacks probable if Bush policies reversed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Terrorists are highly likely to attempt a nuclear or biological attack on United States in coming years, former Vice President Dick Cheney warned in an interview published on Wednesday.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney (L) is seen after a meeting with members of the economic advisory team at the Treasury Department in Washington August 8, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing

In an interview with Politico, Cheney said he feared policies favored by President Barack Obama would make such an attack more likely to succeed.

“I think there’s a high probability of such an attempt,” Cheney said, speaking two weeks after Obama took office.

“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,” Cheney told said.

He listed Bush administration polices which he said kept the United States safe from attack.

“If it hadn’t been for what we did with respect to the terrorist surveillance program, or enhanced interrogation techniques for high-value detainees, the Patriot Act, and so forth -- then we would have been attacked again,” he said.

“Those policies we put in place, in my opinion, were absolutely crucial to getting us through the last seven-plus years without a major-casualty attack on the U.S.”

Cheney also defended the Bush administration’s handling of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects.

Cheney said Obama would put the country at risk if he backtracked on Bush administration security policies.

“When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,” Cheney said.

Protecting the country’s security is “a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business,” he said. “These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.”

Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Alan Elsner