Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday defended the National Security Agency’s data surveillance programs and labeled admitted leaker Edward Snowden as a “traitor.” [WATCH VIDEO: NSA UPDATE]
“I think he's a traitor...I think he has committed crimes,” Cheney said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.”
Cheney defended those data surveillance methods as essential to national security, arguing that the threat from terrorism is worse than ever.
Cheney also claimed credit for setting up the NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens.
“The reason we got into it is because we were attacked...the worst attack since Pearl Harbor,” he said. He said the possibility of a terrorist nuclear attack justified the program.
Cheney argued that the NSA is just collecting phone numbers, not fishing into the content of ordinary American's communications and blasted Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) for suggesting otherwise.
“That's not the way it works,” he said.
“It's just a big bag of numbers...you don't go into that box of numbers unless you've got a suspicious number,” he said, adding that if the program were in effect before Sept. 11 it could have prevented the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
President Obama said this week that he chose to dial down the NSA wiretapping set up by the Bush administration. Democrats have long accused Cheney of exaggerating threats to the U.S. to justify an aggressive foreign policy, including the invasion of Iraq.
Cheney though criticized Obama for suggesting in May that the war on terror is winding down.
“First of all he's wrong, it's not winding down...the threat is bigger than ever,” Cheney said.
He said Obama's alleged handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the IRS harassment of conservatives means that people had weakened the president.
“I don't think he has credibility,” Cheney said.
Cheney also weighed in on Obama's decision to arm Syria's rebels. He said that the U.S. should have intervened sooner and that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been right in pushing that approach.