CNN's Jim Acosta reported that Liz Cheney "shot down" the claim that harsh interrogations conducted in 2002 were aimed at "discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and Al Qaeda," but ignored that Cheney changed the subject when asked about an allegation that, in 2003, her father's office suggested an Iraqi detainee be waterboarded to obtain evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link.
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In crediting Liz Cheney with having "shot down" allegations that "in early 2002," harsh interrogations were being conducted to "discover a smoking gun linking Iraq and Al Qaeda," CNN correspondent Jim Acosta ignored the key question she was asked -- and avoided answering -- about an allegation that, in 2003, then-Vice President Dick Cheney's office suggested an Iraqi detainee be waterboarded to obtain evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link. In response to that allegation, Cheney simply changed the subject.
From Acosta's report on the May 18 edition of CNN's American Morning:
[begin video clip]
ACOSTA: But even as Republicans are trying to turn the torture tables on Democrats, liberals are reaching to turn them back.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL (The Nation editor): The next big controversy is the mounting evidence showing that torture was used to extract evidence, to create a link -- a false link -- between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.
ACOSTA: Bush administration critics point to Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell. On the website The Washington Note, Wilkerson says in early 2002, harsh interrogation was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S., but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and Al Qaeda -- a charge Dick Cheney's daughter shot down.
LIZ CHENEY: I think that it's important for us to have all the facts out. ... [T]his was an important program. It saved American lives.
[end video clip]
ACOSTA: As for Speaker Pelosi, Republicans acknowledge they don't have the votes to remove her, but all of the finger-pointing is renewing calls on Capitol Hill for an independent truth commission on torture, something the White House says it does not want -- John.
But during the exchange on the May 17 broadcast of This Week from which the Vanden Heuvel and Cheney clips were taken, Cheney was also asked -- by Stephanopoulos -- to respond to allegations of actions specifically taken by Vice President Cheney's office in 2003:
VANDEN HEUVEL: [Y]ou said, George, that the next big controversy is Guantanamo. The next big controversy is the mounting evidence showing that torture was used to extract evidence to create a link -- a false link -- between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida. That is a crucial area of investigation and another reason --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me just explain to the viewers what Katrina is -- a little more context in what she's talking about.
There were some reports this week that the vice president's office, actually, back in 2003, in April of 2003, I believe, sent some sort of word to Iraq that a detainee in custody should be waterboarded in order to get information to establish whether there was a connection between Iraq and Al Qaida, or more information on weapons of mass destruction -- your response.
Acosta did not mention Stephanopoulos' question, which appeared to refer to a May 13 Daily Beast article by former NBC News investigative producer Robert Windrem, who reported that in 2003 "the vice president's office suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner who was suspected of knowing about a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam."
Purporting to respond to Stephanopoulos, Liz Cheney said: "On this particular allegation, you know, nobody who's talking about this in the press has any knowledge of specific detainee treatment. And you saw the CIA yesterday come out and say, absolutely unequivocally, waterboarding was not used to establish this kind of a link." Cheney did not refute the specific allegations of actions taken by the Vice President's office that Stephanopoulos and asked about. Stephanopoulos then asked her again to respond to the allegation he had raised:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I want to press one thing there, because there was a report -- no, but you've explained one part of it. I just want to ask you to explain another part of it: the report, though, that the vice president's office did ask specifically to have information about Iraq-Al Qaida connections presented to this detainee. Do you deny that?
In her response, Cheney did not deny or "shoot down" the allegation made in Windrem's article and instead shifted to attacking Wilkerson:
CHENEY: I think that it's important for us to have all the facts out. And the first and most important fact is that the vice president has been absolutely clear that he supported this program. This was an important program. It saved American lives.
Now, the way this policy worked internally was once the policy was determined and decided, the CIA, you know, made the judgments about how each individual detainee would be treated. And the vice president would not substitute his own judgment for the professional judgment --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not no one in his office, either?
CHENEY: -- of the CIA. So, I think it's very important for us to look at exactly what the facts are. And the facts are that three people were waterboarded. The people that are, you know, claims to be waterboarded in these articles are not any of those people.
And I think, frankly, you've also got to look at the source of some of these allegations. And one of the big sources is, you know, Colonel Wilkerson. Now, Colonel Wilkerson gets coverage because of his associations with General Powell. And --
STEPHANOPOULOS: His former chief of staff.
CHENEY: -- has made a cottage industry out of, you know, fantasies about the vice president since he left office.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he's not the only one reporting it, but it's good to get your answer.
In addition to Acosta's report, a May 17 post on CNN's Political Ticker blog about Liz Cheney's comments similarly ignored Stephanopoulos' question concerning allegations that, in 2003, Dick Cheney's office suggested waterboarding an Iraqi detainee to obtain evidence of an Iraq-al Qaeda link.