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Dick Cheney: ‘Scooter’ Libby didn’t deserve prosecution by Patrick Fitzgerald

Former Vice President Dick Cheney his daughter Liz Cheney discuss their book 'In My Time: A Personal Political Memoir'

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz Cheney discuss their book, "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir," at the Union League Club Authors Group, 65 W. Jackson Blvd., Monday. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

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Updated: November 30, 2011 12:18AM

A block away from the office of the man who prosecuted his chief of staff, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter had harsh words Monday for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

“My friend Scooter Libby is a very good man,” Cheney said. “He gave up a very successful private life in order to serve the nation. … For his trouble, he ended up as part of a particular prosecution. I will always think that he did not deserve what happened.”

Cheney appeared to hold back his criticism of Fitzgerald, who prosecuted Cheney’s chief of staff for perjury and obstruction of justice, so Cheney’s daughter, who shared the stage with Cheney as his book tour hit the Union League Club Monday, pushed her father.

“I think it was a tremendous miscarriage of justice,” said Liz Cheney, a University of Chicago Law School grad. “I think it was a travesty. Patrick Fitzgerald knew when he came in as special prosecutor that [former Deputy Secretary of State] Richard Armitage was the leaker and that investigation continued and it got to the point where somebody had to be indicted for something, and an innocent man was indicted wrongly. And I think that’s a shameful disgrace.”

The largely Republican audience applauded her answer.

“Well said,” Dick Cheney told his daughter. When first told they were seated just a block from Fitzgerald, Dick Cheney joked, “Is he looking for me?”

Fitzgerald’s job as special prosecutor was to find out who leaked to the news media the news that Valerie Plame, wife of a Bush critic Joseph Wilson, worked for the CIA. I Lewis “Scooter” Libby allegedly first leaked it to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who did not publish it. Then Armitage leaked it to Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak, who did.

Libby escaped a 30-month prison sentence only because President Bush commuted it. Cheney reportedly was angry at the time that Bush did not give Libby a full pardon.

Cheney shared his own stories of his time behind bars for drunken misbehavior during his younger days.

Like the rest of Cheney’s national tour to promote his book, My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, Monday’s luncheon was tightly controlled — no questions from the media allowed before, during or after the event.

Instead, following a lunch of halibut under the chandeliers of the Union League’s main dining room, the Cheneys retired to leather arm chairs on a stage where Liz Cheney interviewed her father.

“In 1963, in July, my dad woke up in the Rock Springs Jail,” Liz Cheney said. “He went from those beginnings to not very many years later being White House chief of staff.”

Without much prodding, Dick Cheney recalled how, after being kicked out of Yale twice, he went back to Wyoming and started working on power transmission lines — a precursor to his later, more lucrative career working in the upper offices of energy companies.

“We were in the habit at the end of the day, going to the local bar, usually the place where we cashed our paychecks, and drank a lot of beer,” Cheney recalled. “On a couple of occasions, I over-imbibed and was arrested. Once in Cheyenne and a second time in Rock Springs. Rock Springs was a real wake-up call. I knew if I stayed on the course I was on, it was going to come to a bad end. I made the decision that I was going to clean up my act.”

Cheney criticized President Obama for his speech in Cairo in which Obama said after 9-11 the U.S. government went too far and acted “contrary to our ideals” — referring primarily to the Bush administration’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which critics call “torture” — to extract some useful and some less-useful testimony from prisoners captured in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In front of the club, protestors held up a sign Monday that read, “End torture now.”

Obama’s Cairo speech was “unfortunate,” Cheney said. “I think it hurt in terms of conveying this message to the country that those of us involved in counter-terrorism ... were somehow violating international statutes, were conducting programs of torture aimed at our opponents.”

Critics have gone so far as to suggest Cheney and President Bush should be charged with “war crimes” for their use of water-boarding to extract confessions.

Cheney continued his defense of those techniques Monday, saying they produced “extraordinarily valuable intelligence.”

“Water-boarding is the issue that generates most of the controversy. A total of three people were water-boarded, that was it,” Cheney said. “To get them to cooperate, sometimes you needed more robust interrogation techniques than just reading them their Miranda rights.”

Cheney told the crowd of 435 listeners he had no regrets: “If I had it to do all over again, I would in a heartbeat.”

The audience applauded.

Liz Cheney tossed mostly soft-ball questions to her father. But she sprung one on him he was not expecting: Who was the better president he worked with: President George H.W. Bush or President George W. Bush?

Cheney smiled and laughed, and so did the audience. He paused.

“Well, I’d tell ya, but it’s classified,” Cheney said.

Cheney was introduced by former White House chief of staff Sam Skinner.

Fitzgerald spokesman Randy Samborn said the U.S. attorney had no comment on the Cheneys’ remarks.

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