Steamboat Springs Former Vice President Dick Cheney defended the National Security Agency while speaking Friday as part of the fifth annual Freedom Conference, put on by The Steamboat Institute.
Cheney spoke alongside his daughter, Liz Cheney, who is running for U.S. Senate in Wyoming.
The Cheneys spoke for more than an hour, touching on a variety of subjects — including Dick Cheney's recent heart transplant, the upcoming election, the Middle East and President Barack Obama — but the primary topic was the ever-present threat of attacks from overseas.
As George W. Bush’s second-in-command after the 9/11 attacks, Cheney helped design the controversial NSA and put his support behind it again Friday, emphasizing that the U.S. still is under threat of a terrorist attack.
“The biggest threat facing us are terrorists armed with something more dangerous than plane tickets and box cutters,” Cheney told the sold-out crowd at the top of Thunderhead at Steamboat Ski Area.
Cheney detailed his time in office and talked about how national security was a top priority, especially after 9/11. He said the best thing U.S. leadership did at that time was consider the attacks an act of war. The NSA has been pivotal, Cheney said, in preventing further attacks. He also defended his view on waterboarding.
Cheney also defended embattled Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, and talked about former NSA directors John McConnell, Kenneth Minihan and Michael Hayden.
Cheney especially highlighted Alexander, who he said is one of the best he ever has worked with.
“Getting rid of the NSA is the last possible thing we should do,” Cheney said. “We need to protect this nation. I’d let Alexander cover my back anytime.”
The Cheneys also were critical of the Obama administration's stance on national security, each calling Obama out of touch with the situations on foreign soil.
“The world is worse when America is weak or walks away,” Liz Cheney said. “That’s a lesson learned today when you turn on the television."
Although both agreed the NSA is a well-thought-out program that is in the country’s best interest, each reiterated that a change at the top is best for the safety of the country going forward.
“The NSA is a well-run program,” Dick Cheney said. “It’s an important program. The president doesn’t concur with a lot of views on national security. But you wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. The president is not up to the job and doesn’t have the same core values we do. We shouldn’t limit our defense or defense tools. We just need to beat him in the next election."
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com
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