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Is that “Keep America Safe”—or “Keep Cheney Out of Jail”?

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A few days back I took a look at a new organization launched by Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol called Keep America Safe. They claim it is designed to put the Obama Administration on the defensive about national security issues, and they promise to run ads against Democrats in marginal districts. But turning to Keep America Safe’s advocacy page, we find an absolute obsession with one issue: a criminal probe into the origins of the torture program by the Justice Department. The whole Keep America Safe campaign is geared to making the point that the torture program and other Cheney-authored measures that probably crossed the threshold into criminal conduct were perfectly legitimate policy alternatives. Keep America Safe seems largely dedicated to keeping Cheney out of jail.

Now Michael Isikoff unearths more information that supports this thesis. Who’s bankrolling Keep America Safe, he asks? It’s Florida real-estate developer Mel Sembler, whose last foray onto the political stage was as chair of the Scooter Libby Defense Trust. Is Keep America Safe a related operation, also geared to the legal defense of the Vice President’s office? It sure looks that way.

Consider Cheney’s latest speech, in which he accused Obama of “dithering” about how many more troops to commit to Afghanistan—a peculiar charge to fall from the lips of a man who sat on a request from his Afghanistan commanders for ten months without action. The setting for this latest volley was an award dinner at which Cheney’s former chief-of-staff Scooter Libby, now a convicted felon whose sentence was commuted by President Bush following a furious lobbying campaign by Cheney, was presented with the “Service Before Self” Award. What exactly was the nature of Libby’s service? According to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Libby failed to give an honest account of the role played by Dick Cheney in the outing of a covert CIA agent as an act of petty political revenge. The Cheney speech at the event honoring Libby went up immediately at the Keep America Safe website, more evidence of seamless coordination between the legal defense efforts and the fearmongering Keep America Safe campaign.

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