Former V-P Cheney defends US spy programmes

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Former vice president Dick Cheney on Sunday defended recently revealed US spy programmes, saying they were needed to prevent attacks and calling the man who leaked details about them a "traitor."

Mr Cheney had played a key role in former president George W. Bush's administration when it developed and approved the National Security Agency surveillance tactics in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"The reason we got into it was because we've been attacked - and (a) worse attack than Pearl Harbor," he told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." The worry, he added, was that future attackers would turn to "deadlier weapons than ever before" - including nuclear and biological arms.

"When you consider somebody smuggling a nuclear device into the United States, it becomes very important to gather intelligence on your enemies and stop that attack before it ever gets launched," he said.

Asked about critics of the programmes, Mr Cheney countered: "The allegation is out there that somehow we've got all this personal information on Aunt Fanny or Chris Wallace or whoever it might be and reported through it," he said.

"Not true, that's not the way it works." Mr Cheney said he understood people's concern about the secrecy of the programmes, but added that disclosing sources and methods means "you're revealing it to your targets, to your adversaries, to the enemy."

In that vein, the former second in command called Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former government contractor who exposed the widespread spying and has gone underground in Hong Kong, a "traitor." "I think he has committed crimes in effect by violating agreements given the position he had," he said.

"I think it's one of the worst occasions in my memory of somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States." Cheney also had some choice words for President Barack Obama.

"I don't pay a lot of attention, frankly, to what Barack Obama says ...I'm obviously not a fan of the incumbent president," he said.

"I don't think he has credibility."

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