Dick Cheney is, without question, the most powerful American Vice President in history. His power within the Bush Administration is, for the most part, unchecked and his rule is absolute.
More than anyone else in the White House, Cheney has promoted the notion that the Administration is above the law and does not have to answer to the Constitution, Congress or the Supreme Court.
Nowhere is that abuse of power and law more evident than in Cheney’s belief that torture is an accepted form of interrogation of prisoners and the terms of the Geneva Convention can, and should, be ignored in Bush’s so-called “war on terror.”
Write Barton Gellman and Jo Becker in The Washington Post (excerpted from the series Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency):
Shortly after the first accused terrorists reached the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Jan. 11, 2002, a delegation from CIA headquarters arrived in the Situation Room. The agency presented a delicate problem to White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, a man with next to no experience on the subject. Vice President Cheney’s lawyer, who had a great deal of experience, sat nearby. The meeting marked “the first time that the issue of interrogations comes up” among top-ranking White House officials, recalled John C. Yoo, who represented the Justice Department. “The CIA guys said, ‘We’re going to have some real difficulties getting actionable intelligence from detainees’” if interrogators confined themselves to humane techniques allowed by the Geneva Conventions.
From that moment, well before previous accounts have suggested, Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive’s will to resist. The vice president’s office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials.
Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden “torture” and permitted use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” methods of questioning. They did not originate every idea to rewrite or reinterpret the law, but fresh accounts from participants show that they translated muscular theories, from Yoo and others, into the operational language of government.