Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday that he was directly involved in approving severe interrogation methods used by the CIA and that the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should remain open indefinitely.
Cheney's remarks on Guantanamo appear to put him at odds with President George W. Bush, who has expressed a desire to close the prison, though the decision is expected to be left to the administration of President-elect Barack Obama.
Cheney's comments also mark the first time that he has acknowledged playing a central role in clearing the CIA's use of an array of controversial interrogation tactics, including a simulated drowning method known as "waterboarding."
"I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared," Cheney said in an interview on ABC News.
Asked whether he still believes it was appropriate to use the waterboarding method on suspected terrorists, Cheney said: "I do."
His comments come on the heels of disclosures by a Senate committee showing that high-level officials in the Bush administration were intimately involved in reviewing and approving interrogation methods that later were outlawed and that have been condemned internationally as torture.
Soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Cheney said, the CIA "in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it."
Waterboarding involves strapping a prisoner to a tilted surface, covering his face with a towel and dousing it with water to simulate drowning.
CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has said the agency used the technique on three al-Qaida suspects in 2002 and 2003. But the practice was discontinued as lawyers from the Department of Justice and other agencies backed away from opinions they had rendered endorsing its legality.
Cheney has long defended the technique, which was used during the Spanish Inquisition. But he has not previously disclosed his role in pushing to give the CIA such authority.
Asked when Guantanamo Bay would be shut down, Cheney said, "I think that that would come with the end of the war on terror."
He went on to say that "nobody can specify" when that might occur and likened the use of the detention facility to the imprisonment of Germans during World War II.
The Bush administration's legal case for holding detainees indefinitely has been eroded by a series of court rulings.
Obama has pledged to close the facility, which still holds 250 prisoners.
Cheney's remarks are the latest in a series of interviews granted by Bush and senior officials defending their decisions as they prepare to leave office.
Bush said recently that his main regret was that U.S. spy agencies had been so mistaken about Iraq's alleged weapons programs.
Cheney said those mistakes did not matter and that the U.S. invasion was justified by dictator Saddam Hussein's ability to re-establish destructive weapons programs.