In April, Vice President Cheney received extensive media coverage when he called on the Obama administration to release two CIA memos allegedly showing evidence that the Bush-era interrogation policies saved lives. His request came in response to critics who lambasted the Bush administration’s program and said it actually hurt U.S. efforts. From Cheney’s interview with Sean Hannity on April 20:
HANNITY: And secondly, why is it important that those interrogations took place? I mean, the ones they were talking about were sleep deprivation, waterboarding, putting insects into small, confined areas and telling them they were deadly insects. […]
CHENEY: It worked. It’s been enormously valuable in terms of saving lives, preventing another mass casualty attack against the United States. … And there are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity. They have not been declassified.
Strikingly, they provide little evidence for Cheney’s claims that the “enhanced interrogation” program run by the CIA provided valuable information. In fact, throughout both documents, many passages — though several are incomplete and circumstantial, actually suggest the opposite of Cheney’s contention: that non-abusive techniques actually helped elicit some of the most important information the documents cite in defending the value of the CIA’s interrogations.
This finding is big news. You’d think that since the media reported so much on Cheney’s claims about the documents, they would also rush to report that Cheney was wrong. Not so. Greg Sargent notes that in the major newspapers, this fact was “either not covered at all, buried deep in stories, or described in highly hedged language.”
ThinkProgress went through the coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC and found that television outlets are performing as poorly as their print counterparts. Most of the networks’ reports omitted the Cheney angle. When they did address it, they tended to give Cheney the benefit of the doubt by saying that it was “not clear” from the heavily-redacted documents. The only individuals to note Cheney’s lie were guest commentators. Watch a few of the segments here:
Cheney has since put out a carefully worded statement saying that “individuals subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al Qaeda.” However, the fact remains that there is still no public evidence that those techniques actually saved lives.