Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney talks about his wife Lynne Cheney's book "James Madison: A Life Reconsidered" May 12, 2014 in Washington, DCFormer U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney talks about his wife Lynne Cheney's book "James Madison: A Life Reconsidered" May 12, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo/Win Mcnamee)
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Washington (AFP) - Former US vice president Dick Cheney on Sunday defended America's now-banned program that tortured Al-Qaeda suspects, praising the CIA operatives who ran it as heroes.
"I'm perfectly comfortable that they should be praised, they should be decorated," the right-hand man to former president George W. Bush told NBC television's "Meet the Press" program, adding, "I'd do it again in a minute."
He made his remarks after the release by Senate Democrats last week of a long-awaited investigation into detention and interrogation practices at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and at secret detention facilities -- so-called "black sites" -- where detainees were held around the world.
Cheney said there is "no comparison" between the tactics and the deaths of American citizens on September 11, 2001, adding that the CIA "very carefully avoided" the practice of torture.
"Torture is what the Al-Qaeda terrorists did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11," Cheney said.
"There is no comparison between that and what we did with respect to enhanced interrogation."
He said he was unfazed that many of the foreign nationals rounded up and held for years, including those tortured, eventually were found not to be terrorists.
"I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective and our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States," he said.
The lengthy report spearheaded by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee asserted that interrogation tactics used on terror suspects were more brutal than previously known.
The report revealed the existence of one practice viewed as particularly abhorrent -- "rectal rehydration" -- which critics categorized as a variation on a medieval form of torture in which the intestines are swollen with fluid in order to cause pain.
Cheney said he was not aware the practice was part of the interrogation program, which intelligence officials have said was meant as a way to provide nutrition to inmates.
"I believe it was done for medical reasons," Cheney said.
In excruciating detail, the report described crude torture methods including waterboarding, hanging people for hours from their wrists and locking them in tiny coffin-shaped boxes.
- 'It absolutely worked' -
The report questioned the effectiveness of such techniques, which it determined were actually counterproductive for getting actionable intelligence.
Cheney strongly disagreed.
"It worked. It absolutely worked," he said on Sunday about the program which US officials euphemistically have referred to as employing "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Reiterating comments he made last week, Cheney insisted that his boss was fully aware about the details of the program as it was being conducted.
"This man knew what we were doing," he said about Bush.
"He authorized it. He approved it."
In earlier remarks the former vice president defended the interrogation program and blasted the 500-page Senate report as "terrible" and "full of crap."
The report released Tuesday said the CIA's interrogation of Al-Qaeda suspects -- including beatings, rectal rehydration, and sleep deprivation -- was far more brutal than acknowledged and did not produce useful intelligence.
It also concluded that the CIA deliberately misled Congress and the White House about the value of the intelligence its interrogators were gathering.