Leon Panetta, the C.I.A.’s new director — and the man who bears much of the responsibility for keeping the country safe — learned the details of Cheney’s speech when he arrived in his office, on the seventh floor of the agency’s headquarters. An hour earlier, he had been standing at the side of President Barack Obama, who was giving a speech at the National Archives, in which he argued that America could “fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law.” In January, the Obama Administration banned the “enhanced” techniques that the Bush Administration had approved for the agency, including waterboarding and depriving prisoners of sleep for up to eleven days.
Panetta, pouring a cup of coffee, responded to Cheney’s speech with surprising candor. “I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue,” he told me. “It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”
I don’t doubt that Panetta’s remarks will be seen as highly controversial by the right, but the CIA director’s comments are bolstered by reality.