TODAY   |  August 29, 2011

Cheney: I ‘would strongly support’ waterboarding terror suspects

NBC’s Jamie Gangel sits down with former Vice President Dick Cheney who opens up about the controversial programs he supported after 9/11 and why he and former President George Bush tell different stories on how the decision was made to go to war in Iraq.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> with an exclusive interview with dick cheney . the former vice president releases his new memoir "in my time" this week. it's an unapologetic account of his time in the white house and already making waves . "today" national correspondent sat down with mr. cheney in wyoming. jamie, good morning to you.

>> good morning, matt. known to be discrete, a man with few words, the book is filled with revelation, criticism, and a glimpse behind the curtain of private conversations and critical moments with the president who picked hip, george w. bush . you may remember that dick chen cheney 's se vet service name was angler and it's as fitting as ever. at 70 years old dick cheney may spend his free time fishing, and after major heart surgery , look a little frail, but don't be fooled. this book is going to make a lot of people angry.

>> there are going to be heads exploding all over washington, jamie were conservative hero the his fans, darth vader to his critics, cheney 's book is an unapologetic defense to his vice presidency and the controversial program he's championed after 9/11. in your view, we should still be using enhanced interrogation?

>> yes.

>> should we still be waterboarding terror suspects?

>> i would strongly support using it again if we had a high-value detainee, that was the only way we could get him to talk.

>> people call it torture. you think it should still be a tool?

>> yes.

>> rendition.

>> yes.

>> secret prisons.

>> yes.

>> wiretapping.

>> well, with the right approval.

>> you say it is one of the things you are proudest of and you would do it again in a heartbeat.

>> it was con tro verse shul at the time. it was the right thing to do.

>> no apologies?

>> no apologies.

>> reporter: and now cheney insists he's not settling scores the book takes on everyone from former cia director george tenet to former secretary of state colin powell to this withering portrayal of condoleezza rice .

>> you said she came in and saturday next to my desk and tearfully admitted i had been right. was she crying?

>> she was tearful. that's what i wanted to write. if i wanted to say she was chiropractoring, i would have said she was crying.

>> you know tearfully was a loaded description for powerful women in high office. it's going to be seen by a lot of people as provocative. could you have left that word out?

>> it is an accurate description of what happened and what i saw.

>> reporter: for the record, cheney praises president bush as bold and decisive. who is in charge in the white house ?

>> the president, no question, always.

>> was he sensitive about the fact that people thought you were running things?

>> not as sensitive as i would have expected. i think some of the staff occasionally were aggravated by a story that said cheney is pulling the strings behind the scenes . but it was never true. i mean, george bush was the president.

>> reporter: but cheney also goes public with revelations about his old boss. including private conversations which show just how much the decider-in-chief depended on the adviser-in-chief. listen to the difference in how the two men describe the eve of the iraq war . president bush writes, i turned to the team gathered in the oval office and said, let's go. you write, the president kicked everyone else out of the oval office , looked at me and said, dick, what do you think we ought to do?

>> that's the way i recall it. i was giving advice. i wasn't making the decision. he was making the decision.

>> reporter: do you think she's revelations will embarrass president bush ?

>> i don't know why.

>> well, he's saying, let's go, i'm the leader.

>> well, he was.

>> but you're revealing that it didn't happen that way. he cleared out the office. he said, dick, what do you think we should do?

>> right.

>> the very different picture.

>> right. but then he made the decision. it wasn't my decision.

>> don't you think it will embarrass him that you point out the difference?

>> i -- i didn't set out to embarrass the president or not embarrass the president.

>> reporter: that said, the memoir also portrays a side of dick cheney that most people have never seen. at the end of the book cheney writes philosophically about his five heart attacks and mortality. last summer he went into end stage heart failure and doctors implanted a heart pump. could you just show me how it works?

>> sure. it's got a pump inside that's tied into my heart. it's powered by batteries. they're good for about ten hours. and when you take them out it beeps.

>> please put it back in. [ beep beep beep ]

>> former secretary of state condoleezza rice and george tenet said the time to comment about the book, however, former secretary of state colin powell is now speaking out saying he always gave the president his best advice and he called former vice president cheney 's criticism, quote, cheap shots. matt, tonight on "dateline" we're going to have much more including a visit to one of those undisclosed locatications dick cheney spent so much time in after 9/11.

>> thank you.

>> and by the way, dick cheney will be right here in our studio for an exclusive live interview tomorrow morning here on "today."