Cliff May

The headline on CNN was "Cheney Attacks!" Correspondent Tom Foreman commented that "even in the bare- knuckle world of Washington these days, this was a remarkably sharp attack by the former vice president just weeks into President Obama's term."

And how had the former vice president expressed his fabled bellicosity this time? In an interview with, he warned that there is a "high probability" that, in the years ahead, terrorists will attempt to use a nuclear or biological weapon to mass-murder Americans.

Cheney said he was concerned that the Obama administration may discard some of the policies that have defeated such attempts since 9/11/01. As he put it: "When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an al-Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry."

The guests on one CNN program thought that an outrageous comment (with a single exception: me). Who would really insist on reading terrorists their rights? But a front-page headline in the Washington Post recently announced: "Bush's ‘War' On Terror Comes to a Sudden End." If there's no war, terrorist suspects cannot be "unlawful enemy combatants"; they must be treated instead as suspects in criminal justice proceedings. Such suspects are legally entitled to "Miranda warnings" - they must be informed, for example, that they have a "right to remain silent." On what basis could there be an exception?

That wasn't the only flank on which Cheney "attacked." He also said he worried about Obama's decision to shut down the detention facility at Guantánamo. Those incarcerated there, he said, "are evil people." He cited intelligence reports revealing that at least 61 of the detainees released from Guantánamo during the Bush administration have "gone back into the business of being terrorists."

He might have added that 11 of the 85 individuals now on Saudi Arabia's "most wanted" list have been released from Guantánamo as well. They were sent back home where Saudi authorities put them through an anti-jihadi rehabilitation program - unsuccessfully, as it now turns out.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.