"I was aware of the programme, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do," Cheney said.

"I was aware of the programme, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared ... they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it"

Dick Cheney,
US vice-president

"And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it," he added.

The out-going US vice-president was also asked about when Guantanamo Camp could be shut down.

"Well, I think that that would come with the end of the war on terror," he told ABC.

Cheney was then asked when that was. "Well, nobody knows," he said. "Nobody can specify that.

"In previous wars, we've always exercised the right to capture the enemy and then hold them until the end of the conflict.

"The same basic principle ought to apply here in terms of our right to capture the enemy and hold them," Cheney said, adding that in many cases the captives' own countries did not want them back and no other nation was willing to take them.

He also said about 30 detainees who were released from Guantanamo "ended up back on the battlefield again, and we've encountered them a second time around. But they've either been killed or captured in further conflicts with our forces".

'Very well run'

More than 200 detainees remain at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba, which has been widely condemned by international human rights groups.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was subjected
to waterboarding by US interrogators [EPA]
Barack Obama, the US president-elect, has said he wants to close the prison camp which opened in 2002 to hold prisoners captured by the US as part of its so-called war on terror.

In another interview with Rush Limbaugh, a US conservative radio host, Cheney said Guantanamo "has been very well run" and that Obama would have a difficult time closing it.

"Once you go out and capture a bunch of terrorists, as we did in Afghanistan and elsewhere, then you've got to have some place to put them," he said.

"If you bring them here to the US and put them in our local court system, then they are entitled to all kinds of rights that we extend only to American citizens. Remember, these are unlawful combatants."