CIA'S "HIGH VALUE DETAINEE" PROGRAM GOT MORE VALUABLE INTELLIGENCE THAN ALL OTHER EFFORTS AND IS NOT TORTURE, SAYS EX-CIA DIRECTOR GEORGE TENET -- "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
In His First Network Television Interview, Tenet Says Controversial Program Saved Lives
Ex-CIA Director George Tenet says the intelligence extracted from terror suspects in the Agency's "High Value Detainee" program, which includes so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," was more valuable than all the other terror intelligence gathered by the FBI, the National Security Agency and the CIA. In his first network television interview, the nation's former top spy denied any torture took place, but tells Scott Pelley that the High Value Detainee program saved lives and allowed the U.S. government to foil terror plots. The interview will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, April 29 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
The High Value Detainee program uses "enhanced" techniques said to include sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, and water boarding, in which suspects are reportedly restrained as a steady stream of water is poured over their faces, causing a severe gag reflex and a terrifying fear of drowning. In Sunday's interview, Pelley challenges Tenet on the "enhanced interrogations," a topic that gets little play in his much-anticipated book, At the Center of the Storm. "Here's what I would say to you, to the Congress, to the American people, to the President of the United States: I know that this program has saved lives. I know we've disrupted plots," he tells Pelley. "I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency put together, have been able to tell us."
The new program for interrogation came after the 9/11 attacks. When pressed by Pelley about whether interrogations included water boarding, Tenet insists he does not talk about techniques, and that what he means by "enhanced interrogation" is not torture. Whatever it is, it's justified in his mind. "We don't torture people. I want you to listen to me. The context is it's post-9/11. I've got reports of nuclear weapons in New York City, apartment buildings that are gonna be blown up, planes that are gonna fly into airports all over again, plot lines that I don't know. I don't know what's going on inside the United States, and I'm struggling to find out where the next disaster is going to occur. Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through: the palpable fear that we felt on the basis of the fact that there was so much we did not know."
When 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in a raid in Pakistan, the "enhanced interrogations" were apparently a surprise to him. According to Tenet, the captured terrorist told CIA interrogators, "I'll talk to you guys when you take me to New York and I can see my lawyer." Instead, he was reportedly flown around the world, kept in secret prisons and water-boarded. Tenet repeated his denial again and again: "Let me say that again to you. We don't torture people. Okay?"
But when asked by Pelley why the "enhanced interrogation" techniques were necessary, Tenet says, "Because these are people who will never, ever, ever tell you a thing. These are people who know who's responsible for the next terrorist attack....[who] wouldn't blink an eyelash about killing you, your family, me and my family and everybody in this town," says Tenet. When Pelley presses, asking whether he lost sleep over the interrogations, Tenet says, "Of course you lose sleep over it. You're on new territory."