US Vice President Dick Cheney has waged an intense and largely unpublicized campaign over the past year to stop Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department from imposing more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The vice president called Senator John D. Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, last winter when the latter began pushing to have the full committee briefed on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)'s interrogation practices, to the White House to urge that he drop the matter, said the report, quoting three US officials as saying.
In recent months, Cheney has been the force against adding safeguards to the Defense Department's rules on treatment of military prisoners, putting him at odds with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England, the report said.
Just last week, Cheney showed up at a Republican senatorial luncheon to lobby lawmakers for a CIA exemption to an amendment by Senator John McCain that would ban torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The exemption would cover the CIA's covert "black sites" in several Eastern European countries and other countries where key al-Qaida captives are being kept, the report said.
Cheney's camp says the United States does not torture captives, but believes the president needs nearly unfettered power to deal with terrorists to protect Americans, the report said.
On the other side of the debate, according to the Post report, are those who believe that unconventional measures - harsh interrogation tactics, prisoner abuse and the "ghosting" and covert detention of CIA-held prisoners - have so damaged world support for the US-led counterterrorism campaign that they have hurt the US cause.
McCain's amendment would limit the military's interrogation and detention tactics to those described in the Army Field Manual, and it would prohibit all US government employees from using cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Cheney pushed hard to have the entire amendment defeated. He twice held meetings with key lawmakers to lobby against the measure, and when that tack did not work, he handed McCain language that would exempt the CIA, the report said.