Alexa

CIA director says harsh interrogations worked

CIA director says harsh interrogations worked

The director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency strenuously defended on Thursday the effectiveness of the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques, only moments after Attorney General-designate Eric Holder pronounced that the most notorious of those tactics, waterboarding, is torture.
Though the United States insists it has not engaged in waterboarding during interrogations in the last five years, CIA Director Michael Hayden said that the coercive techniques and other harsh tactics were useful in the campaign against terror.
"These techniques worked," said Hayden, who is due to replaced by former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta as President-elect Barack Obama's CIA director.
According to Hayden, the CIA held and interrogated fewer than 100 detainees at secret detention sites. Of those, a third were subjected to harsh techniques. Three of them, he acknowledged, were waterboarded.
"I am convinced that the program got the maximum amount of information particularly out of that first generation of detainees. The Abu Zubaydahs, the Khalid Sheik Muhammeds," Hayden said, referring to top al-Qaida operatives who were detained and questioned using the questionable techniques. "I just can't conceive of any other way, given their character, given their commitment to what it is they do."
Whether waterboarding is torture is "an uninteresting question for the CIA," Hayden told reporters at his headquarters Thursday. "We don't do that. We haven't done it since March 2003, and we have no intent to do it."
Hayden banned waterboarding from CIA interrogations in 2006. He has acknowledged the agency used the technique, a form of simulated drowning, on three prisoners in 2002 and 2003.
It was among the CIA's so-called "enhanced" interrogation techniques approved by the White House and Justice Department after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to question alleged terrorists who the administration feared were plotting a follow-up attack.
"The agency did none of this out of enthusiasm," Hayden said. "It did it out of duty, and it did it with the best legal advice it had."
Holder's opinion that waterboarding is torture complicates an already complex legal environment for U.S. prosecution of terror suspects.
The top official overseeing the military commissions set up by the Bush administration to prosecute them told The Washington Post this week that she decided not to send a Guantanamo detainee's case to trial because she believes he was tortured by his U.S. military captors using a combination of harsh albeit approved techniques.
Aides to Obama say he intends to close Guantanamo and to rein in CIA interrogations and detainee operations.
Hayden said he was "very heartened" by Obama's statements that he is "looking forward" rather than backward when it comes to the CIA's more controversial programs. He said he interprets the president-elect's words to mean there will be no effort in the new administration to find and punish CIA officers who carried out those orders.
Hayden said Thursday that everything the CIA did was legal and approved by the Justice Department.
He warned that any effort to hold agency employees retroactively accountable for President George W. Bush's legally sanctioned intelligence programs could cause severe damage to future intelligence-gathering.
"We are asked to do things routinely that no one else is asked to do, that no one else is allowed to do," Hayden said. "We have no right to ask this guy to risk his child's college education (fund) on who is going to win an off-year election," Hayden said. "You can't do this to these people."