By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 22, 2008 - The absence of new terrorist attacks on the United States since 9/11 reflects the success of the nation's anti-terror programs and policies, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said yesterday on the "Fox News Sunday" television show. "I think the fact that we were able to protect the nation against further attacks from al-Qaida for seven and a half years is a remarkable achievement," Cheney told interviewer Chris Wallace.
The United States has avoided repetition of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and thwarted follow-on plots directed against other municipalities such as Los Angeles and Chicago, Cheney said, by implementing homeland-defense initiatives, including the terrorist surveillance program, and launching overseas U.S. military operations targeting militants in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Cheney listed some terrorist attacks around the world that followed 9/11:
-- Bombings targeting popular nightclubs on the Indonesian island of Bali in October 2002 killed more than 200 people and injured more than 200.
-- Bombings on commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, in March 2004 killed nearly 200 people and injured nearly 2,000.
-- Suicide bombings targeting London subways and buses in July 2005 killed more than 50 people and injured hundreds.
-- Terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, conducted last month killed more than 150 people and injured hundreds.
"The threat's still out there, and still [is] very real," Cheney said.
To protect America against another terrorist attack, Cheney said, the U.S. government "had to adopt some unpopular policies that have been widely criticized" in recent years.
As the commander in chief of the armed forces, President George W. Bush was compelled and authorized to establish a terror surveillance program that would be used "to intercept the communications of people who are communicating with terrorists outside the United States," Cheney said.
The surveillance program, in conjunction with detentions and interrogations of high-value detainees, has "provided invaluable intelligence, which has been the key to our ability to defeat al-Qaida over these last seven years," Cheney said. Senior-level congressional leaders, he said, were briefed and consulted about the domestic surveillance program, which could involve federal officials listening in on citizens' calls to overseas locales.
It's also necessary for U.S. officials to employ "a robust interrogation program with respect to high-value detainees," Cheney said.
The Geneva Conventions do not apply to enemy combatants seized during the war against global terrorism, Cheney said. Terrorists do not adhere to the laws of war and should therefore be held for the duration of the conflict, he said, noting the terrorists didn't wear uniforms, didn't represent a nation-state, and had "spent all their time trying to kill civilians."
Cheney acknowledged that some of the president's anti-terror programs have touched off sometimes heated public debate over their use.
"But I think that what we've done has been totally consistent with what the Constitution provides for," the vice president said.
Regarding the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, Cheney told Wallace that the fugitive al-Qaida chieftain apparently has "been holed up in a way where he's not even been communicating." Officials believe bin Laden is hiding somewhere in a remote region of eastern Afghanistan or western Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the United States and its allies have had "major success" against al-Qaida, Cheney said.
"We've captured or killed a lot of al-Qaida members, and, as I say, we've prevented further attacks against the United States," Cheney said. "That's probably the most-important objective."