In December 2008, Dick Cheney acknowledged what many had long suspected or known: that he was instrumental in initiating the Bush Administration interrogation tactic in which detainees were blindfolded, strapped to a board, and held down as water was pored into their cavities until their lungs began to fill up with it. The intent was to trick the detainees into believing that they would drown. Almost sounds like a mock execution, doesn't it? Christopher Hitchens gamely subjected himself to the procedure, knowing he could stop it at any time. His conclusion: "If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture."
ILLEGALLY SPYING ON INNOCENT AMERICANS
Barton Gellman, who wrote one of the definitive books on Cheney, gives the background in a Time magazine piece:
Cheney had devised, and Bush approved, an NSA operation to monitor the
phone calls and emails of U.S. citizens without a warrant, part of which
later became known as the Terrorist Surveillance Program. After more
than two years of going along with "the vice president's special
program," the Justice Department concluded that parts of it were
illegal. Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey later told Congress, and
authoritative sources confirmed privately last week, that Ashcroft
decided on March 4, 2004 to stop certifying the surveillance as lawful
unless the White House scaled it back.
Cheney admits he was behind the spying in his memoir. But Gellman makes a compelling case that he lies about a confrontation with an ailing John Ashcroft to make himself look better. In any case, it is beyond dispute that at Dick Cheney's urging, the federal government spied on millions of non-terrorist Americans without a warrant. And that Cheney wanted the program to continue even after it was declared illegal.
After his initial stints in government under Republican Administrations, including time as George H.W. Bush's Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney entered the private sector, where he used contacts he made during his time in government to enrich himself. All told, he would earn more than $44 million from Halliburton.
Jane Mayer has an account of how the relationship began:
Cheney was hired by Halliburton in 1995, not long after he went on a
fly-fishing trip in New Brunswick, Canada, with several corporate
moguls. After Cheney had said good night, the others began talking about
Halliburton's need for a new C.E.O. Why not Dick? He had virtually no
business experience, but he had valuable relationships with very
powerful people. Lawrence Eagleburger, the Secretary of State in the
first Bush Administration, became a Halliburton board member after
Cheney joined the company. He told me that Cheney was the firm's
"outside man," the person who could best help the company expand its
business around the globe. Cheney was close to many world leaders,
particularly in the Persian Gulf, a region central to Halliburton's
oil-services business. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, were so friendly with
Prince Bandar, the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., that the Prince had
invited the Cheney family to his daughter's wedding. (Cheney did not
attend.) "Dick was good at opening doors," Eagleburger said. "I don't
mean that pejoratively. He had contacts from his former life, and he
used them effectively."
After Cheney enriched himself by exploiting contacts with various corrupt Arab autocrats that he made while drawing a public salary, he returned to public life as vice-president. Halliburton donated to his campaign, and got numerous lucrative contracts during the Bush Administration's tenure, even as it was discovered to have overcharged the U.S. for prior services rendered.