Cheney Warns of 9/11 Repeat

Brad Norington
The Australian

Tue, 16 Feb 2010 00:00 EST

Former US vice-president Dick Cheney has accused the Obama administration of being "dead wrong" to assume a repeat of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, is unlikely.

Stepping up claims that the White House has been soft on national security, Mr Cheney said yesterday that a nuclear or biological attack by al-Qa'ida remained the biggest threat to the US. He also urged that terrorist suspects be treated as enemy combatants in a war, and not allowed criminal trials in US civilian courts.

Mr Cheney was commenting as opinion polls show a majority of US voters back President Barack Obama's management of national security, but disagree with his administration's proposals to move away from terrorist trials in military tribunals.

The former Republican vice-president's claims were immediately rebutted by his Democrat successor, Joe Biden, who argued the administration was devoting more resources than ever against al-Qa'ida.

In separate interviews, Mr Biden said Mr Cheney was factually wrong and either "misinformed or misinforming".

He said the Obama administration's decision to commit an extra 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, and to intensify drone attacks on al-Qa'ida leaders, was evidence of its determination.

"We are at war with al-Qa'ida, and we are pursuing that war with a vigour like it's never been seen before," Mr Biden said.

"We've eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. We have taken out 100 of their associates . . . they are on the run."

Top US officials, including National Defence Intelligence chief Dennis Blair, CIA director Leon Panetta and FBI director Robert Mueller, confirmed to a congress committee earlier this month that another attempted terrorist attack on the US was "certain" in the next three to six months, but indicated it was more likely to be less sophisticated and involve individual attackers.

The trio also backed the Obama
administration's moves to try terrorist suspects such as the accused in the attempted airline attack on Christmas Day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, through the criminal justice system.

Mr Biden appeared equivocal yesterday about the administration's plans after protests over plans to try the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and four others, in a criminal court just blocks from the destroyed World Trade Centre.

Amid security concerns, Mr Biden left open the possibility the trial could be moved to a military commission. The Obama admininstration's Attorney-General, Eric Holder, also wavered last week on his previously firm stand in favour of a civilian court. "I'm not ruling anything out," Mr Biden said.

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