Two Bush-era officials reject Cheney's security stance
by Dan De Luce – Fri May 22, 4:12 pm ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Two top Bush-era officials on Friday rejected ex-vice president Dick Cheney's scathing criticism of US President Barack Obama, saying the country's national security was not in jeopardy.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who served in the same post under former president George W. Bush, and Tom Ridge, the former head of homeland security, both voiced disagreement with Cheney a day after he attacked Obama's performance as the new commander-in-chief.
Gates said in an interview that opponents of Obama's decision to close the "war on terror" prison at Guantanamo were engaging in "fear-mongering," a reference to Cheney's stance on the issue.
Defending the president's decision to shut the detention center at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Gates said the prison was damaging America's image and served as a propaganda tool for Al-Qaeda.
"The truth is, it's probably one of the finest prisons in the world today. But it has a taint," Gates told NBC television's "Today" program during a visit to New York.
"The name itself is a condemnation. What the president was saying is, this will be an advertisement for Al-Qaeda as long as it's open," he said.
In an interview with CNN's "State of the Union," Ridge said he could not support the former vice president's charge that Obama had undermined US national security.
Asked if he believed the country was now less safe as a result of Obama's policies, Ridge said: "I do not." The Republican said the discussion had become too politically charged with Cheney making a televised speech on Thursday immediately after an address by the sitting president. Ridge also said he was disappointed with both Cheney and Obama, saying he regretted the bitter partisan tone about such an important issue.
"I disagree with Dick Cheney. But I also disagree with the approach both men are taking," said Ridge, in excerpts of an interview due to be broadcast in full on Sunday.
Ridge also rejected Obama's attack on Bush administration policies as driven by fear and ideology, saying senior officials always had the security of Americans at heart.
"He keeps looking backwards to justify what he's doing now," Ridge said.
"I think that becomes more politics than policy and I don't think it's the kind of approach that we need to bring America together on this very important issue."
Gates sought to counter arguments from Cheney and other Republican critics of the move to close Guantanamo, saying opponents were engaging in scare tactics and that convicted terrorists have been held at high security prisons in the United States for years.
"The truth is there's a lot of fear-mongering about this. We've never had an escape from a super-max prison. And that's where these guys will go, and if not one of the existing ones, we'll create a new one," he said.
The defense secretary also criticized plans by some members of Congress to try to prohibit the transfer of detainees in Guantanamo to the United States.
"I mean the real issue is -- do you close Guantanamo and put them in a prison in the United States in some way, or somewhere, or are you forced to keep Guantanamo open because all the other possibilities are closed off legislatively?"
In a speech on Thursday, Obama vowed to press ahead with closing Guantanamo prison, where some detainees have been held without charge for years.
Obama called the camp a "mess" and charged that Bush-era anti-terror tactics were rooted in fear and ideology.
But he also raised the prospect of holding the most dangerous Al-Qaeda detainees indefinitely in US "super-max" jails, a move that drew outrage from human rights groups.
The US Senate meanwhile blocked funds to close the prison camp. Two Bush-era officials reject Cheney's security stance - Yahoo! News