Former Vice President Dick Cheney (R), whose false statements helped propel the United States into an eight year war in Iraq, said Sunday that citizens should simply “trust” the federal government on matters of privacy and security.
In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Cheney laughed off questions about why federal surveillance of phone records need be kept secret, suggesting that since the people who authorize the program are elected by voters, voters should simply trust their judgment.
CHRIS WALLACE: What does all of this have to be kept so secret? The terrorists clearly assume we’re trying to intercept their phone calls and intercept their e-mails. Why not let the American public know the outlines, the general program. Obviously, not sources and methods… so we as Americans can debate it?
CHENEY: [Laughing] I have problems with respect to that concern. I understand people’s concern about it, but an intelligence program that does reveal sources and methods, which in fact is what your’e talking about, is significantly less effective because you’re not just revealing it to the American people, you’re revealing it to your targets, to your adversaries, to the energy…
WALLACE: So what right do you think the American people have to know what government is doing?
CHENEY: Well, they get to vote for senior officials, like the President of the United States, or like the senior officials in Congress. And you have to have some trust in them.
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While Americans do elect the President and Vice President, only a small fraction of voters select who will be in Congressional leadership. Cheney’s suggestion that voters should trust them because they elected them sets up a substantial catch-22 — if voters can’t know what their elected officials are doing on matters of privacy and national security, they cannot know whether they are earning their trust.
And the Bush-Cheney administration is a perfect example of why voters should not always trust their elected leaders. According to the Center for Public Integrity, the administration made at least 935 demonstrably false statements in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq War. Cheney himself made 48 of those, including his infamous 2002 claim that: “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”