My eyes just about popped out of my head when I read this passage from a front-page story in the Washington Post today: “Cheney was less forthcoming when asked about Saudi Arabia’s ties to al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 hijackers. ‘I don’t want to speculate,’ he said, adding that Sept. 11 is ‘over with now, it’s done, it’s history and we can put it behind us.’”
I was going to write an attack on Cheney for Corner readers, but I figured I should check the transcript of Cheney’s remarks to make sure he hadn’t been taken out of context–especially after I saw that Dana Milbank was one of the authors of the Post article.
Good thing I did.
On Meet the Press yesterday, Tim Russert asked Cheney about “reports that the investigation Congress did does show a link between the Saudi government and the hijackers but that it will not be released to the public.”
Here’s what Cheney actually said: “I don’t want to speculate on that, Tim, partly because I was involved in reviewing those pages. It was the judgment of our senior intelligence officials, both CIA and FBI that that material needed to remain classified. At some point, we may be able to declassify it, but there are ongoing investigations that might be affected by that release, and for that reason, we kept it classified. The committee knows what’s in there. They helped to prepare it. So it hasn’t been kept secret from the Congress, but from the standpoint of our ongoing investigations, we needed to do that.
“One of the things this points out that’s important for us to understand—so there’s this great temptation to look at these events as [discrete] events. We got hit on 9/11. So we can go and investigate it. It’s over with now. It’s done. It’s history and put it behind us.
“From our perspective, trying to deal with this continuing campaign of terror, if you will, the war on terror that we’re engaged in, this is a continuing enterprise. The people that were involved in some of those activities before 9/11 are still out there. We learn more and more as we capture people, detain people, get access to records and so forth that this is a continuing enterprise and, therefore, we do need to be careful when we look at things like 9/11, the commission report from 9/11, not to jeopardize our capacity to deal with this threat going forward in the interest of putting that information that’s interesting that relates to the period of time before that. These are continuing requirements on our part, and we have to be sensitive to that.”
In other words, Cheney was saying more or less the exact opposite of what the Post made him out to be saying, denying the very proposition they attributed to him.