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Hersh: Cheney ‘Left A Stay Behind’ In Obama’s Government, Can ‘Still Control Policy Up To A Point’

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Think Progress
Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, host Terry Gross asked investigative journalist Seymour Hersh if, as he continues to investigate the Bush administration, “more people” were “coming forward” to talk to him now that “the president and vice president are no longer in power.” Hersh replied that though “a lot of people that had told me in the last year of Bush, ‘call me next, next February,’ not many people had talked to him. He implied that they were still scared of Cheney.

“Are you saying that you think Vice President Cheney is still having a chilling effect on people who might otherwise be coming forward,” asked Gross. “I’ll make it worse,” answered Hersh, adding that he believes Cheney “put people back” in government to “stay behind” in order to “tell him what’s going on” and perhaps even “do sabotage”:

HERSH: I’ll make it worse. I think he’s put people left. He’s put people back. They call it a stay behind. It’s sort of an intelligence term of art. When you leave a country and, you know, you’ve driven out the, you know, you’ve lost the war. You leave people behind. It’s a stay behind that you can continue to contacts with, to do sabotage, whatever you want to do. Cheney’s left a stay behind. He’s got people in a lot of agencies that still tell him what’s going on. Particularly in defense, obviously. Also in the NSA, there’s still people that talk to him. He still knows what’s going on. Can he still control policy up to a point? Probably up to a point, a minor point. But he’s still there. He’s still a presence.

Listen here:

The idea that Cheney would seed the government with trusted contacts is not surprising. As Hersh noted in his talk with Gross, Cheney has “been around forever” and “understands bureaucracy much better” than almost anyone in government. In 2006, Robert Dreyfuss reported for The American Prospect that when Cheney helped staff the Bush administration in 2001, he put together a “corps of hard-line acolytes” that served “as his eyes and ears” in the federal bureaucracy. Former officials called them “Dick Cheney’s spies.”

Additionally, before leaving office, the Bush administration aggressively placed political appointees into permanent civil service positions as part of a process known as “burrowing.” Some of the burrowed former political appointees have close ties to Cheney, such as Jeffrey T. Salmon, who was a speechwriter for Cheney when he served as defense secretary. In July, he was named deputy director for resource management in the Energy Department’s Office of Science

Transcript:

GROSS: You investigated the Bush administration throughout the Bush administration. Always looking for ways that they may, might have been going beyond executive authority in taking on new powers. And now that the Bush administration is over, you’re still investigating what they did and where they might have violated the law. Is investigating that any different for you as a journalist post-Bush administration than it was during the Bush administration? Are more people coming forward now, now that the president and vice president are no longer in power? 

HERSH: You know, that’s a great question because I did think, I had a lot of people that had told me in the last year of Bush, “call me next, next February.” And, so far, even people who are out are still cherry because, you know, not so much Bush, but Cheney really is…he’s really smart. In the article this week, in the New Yorker, that’s coming out this week, I mention that at one point last fall, Mr. Miliband, the young foreign secretary of Britain, unilaterally, without telling the White House made a trip to Syria to see the president, Assad, and his intelligence chief, his MI6 chief went before him. And Bush-Cheney didn’t know about it until actually was, they were actually there. And Cheney at a meeting — and I do have, I can tell you I do have access and have had and I’ve been careful of how I use it, to a lot of stuff from meetings in the White House — and at a meeting he railed on about perfidious Albion, you know, the old Shakespeare term for England and that was used during the Revolutionary war as a pejorative term for England. Perfidious Albion he said. He is, Cheney is really underestimated. It’s easy to make a caricature of him. He’s very very bright. And he’s also in person, a much more open-minded in the sense, I’m talking about not politically. You could go and the most despaired people in the world go and have social evenings with him and his wife and talking about current, as long as you don’t get into politics, movies and stuff like that. It’s, he’s easy to make a caricature, but he’s much more formidable than people think. Got a rap clap memory. Understands bureaucracy much better, he’s been around forever, has had every job.

GROSS: Are you saying that you think Vice President Cheney is still having a chilling effect on people who might otherwise be coming forward and revealing things to you about what happened in the Bush administration?

HERSH: I’ll make it worse. I think he’s put people left. He’s put people back. They call it a stay behind. It’s sort of an intelligence term of art. When you leave a country and, you know, you’ve driven out the, you know, you’ve lost the war. You leave people behind. It’s a stay behind that you can continue to contacts with, to do sabotage, whatever you want to do. Cheney’s left a stay behind. He’s got people in a lot of agencies that still tell him what’s going on. Particularly in defense, obviously. Also in the NSA, there’s still people that talk to him. He still knows what’s going on. Can he still control policy up to a point? Probably up to a point, a minor point. But he’s still there. He’s still a presence. And again, because of the problems this administration’s having filling jobs, a lot of people who served in the Bush Cheney government, particularly even in the White House people on most sophisticated staffs are still there. You simply can’t get rid of everybody, you may not even want to. Some are professional people. But Cheney is, I would never call it admiration, but, you know, formidable, yeah, this guy. This guy is the real McCoy.

This article was posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 9:47 am





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