From NBC's Andrea Mitchell
A spokesman for CIA Director Leon Panetta says Panetta's comments to The New Yorker were made to make it absolutely clear that he "profoundly" disagrees with former Vice President Dick Cheney's contention (made on the day of Panetta's interview with journalist Jane Mayer) that President Obama's policies have made the U.S. less safe.
Panetta's spokesman says that was what motivated Panetta's response.
Video: CIA Director Leon Panetta claims former Vice President Dick Cheney's criticism of the Obama administration's approach terrorism almost suggests he wishes the U.S. would be attacked again to make his point. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., discusses.
He says Panetta was not saying that Cheney is hoping for another attack on the homeland, pointing to the words he used: "When you read it, it's ALMOST (emphasis added) as if he's wishing this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that's dangerous politics."
In other words, Panetta was conditional -- not directly accusing Cheney, is his spokesman's point.
*** UPDATE *** More context on Panetta: As is clear from the article itself, Panetta spoke to Jane Mayer of The New Yorker after returning from Obama's speech on detention policy and interrogation -- and being briefed on Cheney's speech earlier that day. So the comments were off the cuff -- his raw reaction to Cheney's criticism.