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Hillary on Cheney: Not 'a particularly reliable source'

April 22, 2009 | 11:14 am

Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was testifying on Capitol Hill this morning when she was asked about former Vice President Dick Cheney's request to declassify documents showing the "success" of harsh interrogation torture techniques approved by President George W. Bush after the 9/11 terror.

"It won't surprise you that I don't consider him [Cheney] a particularly reliable source," she said.

Pressed by California Republican Dana Rohrabacher about whether she would advise President Obama to release the documents, Clinton replied: "I'm not going to share that with you," Clinton said.

The former first lady, former senator and former presidential candidate used her knowledge of Washington's gotcha politics to dodge some other bullets too. It was a feisty performance, with a lot of Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee piling on.

Indiana Republican Dan Burton pressed Clinton to urge the Obama administration not to prosecute "people at the CIA or the Justice Department who were just doing their job to try to protect this country."

And South Carolina Republican Bob Inglis, asked Clinton why had not been more openly critical about forced abortions during her visit to China.

Clinton said that she opposes China's policy of forcing women to have abortions, and has ever since she was first lady.

"Why didn't you say it as secretary of State?" Inglis asked.

"I just did," Clinton replied.

She also clashed on abortion with New Jersey Republican Chris Smith, defending her support for family planning and contraception on the international stage.

Smith questioned how Clinton could accept an award honoring Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, a group Smith said had "killed over 305,000 children by abortion in the U.S. and millions more worldwide."

Replied Clinton: "I deeply respect your passionate views" but "we obviously have a profound disagreement." And, she added, "We are now an administration that will protect the rights of women, including reproductive health care."

Through it all, Clinton was a loyal team player. Though the two clashed on the presidential campaign trail last year -- Clinton accused Obama of being naive for suggesting an outreach to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- today she quoted Obama's inaugural address about offering an open hand to Iran as soon as it unclenched its fist.

"We actually believe that by following the diplomatic path we are on, we gain credibility and influence with a number of nations who would have to participate in order to make the sanctions regime as tight and as crippling as we would want it to be," she said.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo credits: Cheney -- Associated Press; Clinton -- Getty Images