Former Vice President Dick Cheney has moles in the Obama government which report back to him from the Pentagon, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh told NPR and MSNBC on Tuesday.
Speaking with NPR's Terri Gross, Hersh revealed that the former Vice President -- who he characterized as "really smart" -- has individuals that report back to him from key positions in government. He called these individuals "stay-behinds," an intelligence term generally applied to insiders left behind in foreign governments after the occupying power is driven out.
"Heís put people back," Hersh said. "They call it a stay-behind. Itís sort of an intelligence term of art. When you leave a country and, you know, youíve driven out, you know, youíve lost the war. You leave people behind. Itís a stay-behind that you can continue to contacts with, to do sabotage, whatever you want to do.
"Cheneyís left a stay behind," Hersh continued. "Heís got people in a lot of agencies that still tell him whatís going on. Particularly in defense, obviously. Also in the NSA, thereís still people that talk to him. He still knows whatís going on. Can he still control policy up to a point? Probably up to a point, a minor point. But heís still there. Heís still a presence."
Hersh expanded on his comments in an interview with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann Tuesday night. The former New York Times reporter said that the types of individuals that would be well suited to play the role of a Cheney mole would be military officers that were promoted at Cheney or Rumsfeld's behest.
"There are always a group [of officers] who are political and play kiss-up," Hersh said. "And so inevitably you're going to have a group of officers that got promoted ahead of the curve because they were closer and more friendly to Rumsfeld, to Cheney and their policies. And so you have a group of people that were very loyal to the Rumsfeld/Bush/Cheney policies, who had been promoted in big jobs across the spectrum... They have a loyalty."
"Cheney has enormous influence with a lot of the senior officers in the Pentagon," he added. "So I have been told to put the word -- it was the word that I was told about, what they call "stay-behinds." He has people he can count on to keep him informed of what's going on. That doesn't necessarily mean he has much influence on policy. But he, certainly in the Pentagon. And I think because certainly at the National Security Council for weeks and weeks after the Obama Administration took over, there was a long delay in getting staff turned over. So there were a lot of people around in the first few weeks, in the first months of this administration that had served very closely with the Cheney/Bush operation."
In his NPR interview, Hersh even said that some of his sources who'd told him to call them after Bush left office are still nervous about talking.
"I had a lot of people that had told me in the last year of Bush told me, call me next February," he said. "So far, even people that are out are still chary, because not so much Bush," but because of Cheney.
He said Cheney's intelligence is significantly greater than most people believe.
"Cheney is really underestimated," Hersh said. "It's easy to make a caricature of him, but he's very, very bright. He's also, in person, much more open-sided in a sense -- not politically -- the most disparate people in the world go and have social meetings with him and his wife -- as long as you don't get into politics, and uh, movies and stuff like that. He's easy to make a caricature but he's much more formidable than people think. He's got a rat-trap memory."
The following video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Mar. 31, 2009.