News/Campaigns/Homeland Security

News/Campaigns/Homeland Security

Cheney Calls Rockefeller Wiretap Objection A 'CYA'

Vice President Dick Cheney suggested that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) only penned a letter to the Bush administration objecting to its domestic warrantless wiretapping program to give himself cover, not because he really opposed it.

Cheney, on CBS's "Face the Nation," said that congressional leaders, including Rockefeller, didn't object to the government program to wiretap phone conversations without warrants when Cheney first told them about it in 2003. Rockefeller, then the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committeee, later wrote a letter voicing his concerns about the program.

Cheney said Sunday he didn't know why Rockefeller wrote the letter.

"I always felt it was a bit of a CYA letter, that, in those crucial meetings, when we sat down to debate the program and tell them about it, in fact, everybody in the room signed up to it," Cheney said. "Nobody objected."

"CYA" is slang for "cover your a--."

Read below Cheney's full exchange with CBS's Bob Schieffer about Rockefeller and the wiretapping program.
SCHIEFFER: And we're back again with the vice president.

Mr. Vice President, in an interview last month with Chris Wallace over at Fox, you said that starting in 2001, the administration and in many cases you personally kept congressional leaders fully briefed on the program to monitor America's international phone calls without a warrant. You said that the Republican and Democratic leaders were unanimous when you briefed them that the programs were essential and did not require further congressional action. But the New York Times has noted that Senator Rockefeller wrote you a letter in 2003, reiterating concerns that he said he had expressed at those meetings that the programs raised profound issues and created concern regarding the direction the administration was taking.

SCHIEFFER: So were congressional leaders kept fully informed or were they not?

CHENEY: They were kept fully informed.

SCHIEFFER: Well, why would he have written that letter?

CHENEY: I have no idea. I know when -- what happened was the -- everybody who was in the room that day, for example, when I got the leadership down, the chairman and ranking member of the intelligence committees, including Senator Rockefeller, and asked them if we thought they should continue -- if they thought we should continue the program. They said yes. Do we need to come to Congress to get authorization for it? And they said no.

And he was there. He never objected or posed that in any way.

Later on, when this became public, when the New York Times broke the story, which, frankly, I think was an outrageous decision on their part -- they were asked by the president of the United States not to, on the grounds it would damage national security -- then Senator Rockefeller decided he wanted to hark back to this letter.

But the fact was he couldn't even find it. He had to call my office for a copy of the letter that he allegedly had written, some years before, raising some questions that he had about the program, but...

SCHIEFFER: Well, i mean, do you...

CHENEY: I always felt it was a bit of a CYA letter, that, in those crucial meetings, when we sat down to debate the program and tell them about it, in fact, everybody in the room signed up to it. Nobody objected.

SCHIEFFER: Do you feel you went too far, Mr. Vice President, in -- in your surveillance?

CHENEY: Absolutely not. I think what we did was one of the great success stories of the intelligence business in the last century. I think what the National Security Agency did under General Mike Hayden, working with the CIA, at the direction of the president, was masterfully done. I think it provided crucial intelligence for us.

It's one of the main reasons we've been successful in defending the country against further attacks. And I don't believe we violated anybody's civil liberties.

This was all done in accordance with the president's constitutional authority, under Article II of the Constitution, as commander in chief, with the resolution that was passed by the Congress immediately after 9/11. And subsequently, we have gotten the legislative authority, signed up to last year, when we passed and modify the FISA statute.

Rice on 9/11: I Take Responsibility, But System Failed

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted some responsibility for 2001 terror attacks that happened under her watch, but she added that both the Clinton and Bush administrations failed to see them coming.

Rice, in an interview on CNN, acknowledged that the worst national security breach occurred when she was President Bush's national security adviser in September 2001.

"I do take responsibility," she said. "But this was a systemic failure. The United States of America had experienced terrorist attacks in 1993, in 1998, in our embassies abroad, in 2000 against the Cole, and then, finally, in September of 2001.

"But the fact of the matter is that we had not thought of this. We, the administrations before us, had not thought of this as a war against the terrorists that we were going to have to wage."

Rice didn't answer whether she considered resigning her post after the 9/11 attacks.

Rice also wouldn't say whether she voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) or Barack Obama in this year's presidential election.

"I know you're dying to know. But the fact is that I didn't get involved in partisan politics," Rice said. "I think I've made clear that I thought that both Sen. McCain -- John McCain and Barack Obama, the now president-elect, conducted themselves in a way that made the country proud. It's why people, I think, abroad were so focused on this election. That's true."

Biden: U.S. Falls Short on WMD Attacks

Vice President-elect Joe Biden said the United States is not doing all it should to prevent terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) after being briefed on a new report on WMDs released this week.


Pa. Gov. Rendell Accused of Sexism Over Comments

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said it is "perfect" Homeland Security Secretary-designate Janet Napolitano has no husband or children, drawing scrutiny from one TV personality who alleged sexism by Rendell.

"Janet's perfect for that job," Rendell was caught saying on an open microphone at yesterday's National Governors Conference. "Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect."

Rendell added that the job may require as much as 19 to 20 hours a day in devotion, implying that the lack of a family would make her more able to engage the job.

One TV anchor, CNN's Campbell Brown, said the comments were a marker of sexism, and "perpetuate stereotypes that put us in boxes, both mothers and single women."

Napolitano's Bush administration predecessors, Secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, are both married with children

Biden, Napolitano Meet With WMD Panel

Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary-designate Janet Napolitano will meet Wednesday with members of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, which recently said a major terrorist attack is likely by 2013.

The Commission, led by former Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.), said in a report released this week that terrorists are determined to orchestrate a large-scale attack unless drastic measures are taken to prevent such an occurance.

"The commission believes that unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is likely that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013," Graham said upon the release of the report.