60 MINUTES: Ex-CIA chief defends waterboarding of al Qaeda leader

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Ex-Clandestine Service Head Jose Rodriguez Also Questions the White House’s Drone Strike Policy that Has Killed Al-Qaeda Leaders Instead of Capturing Them

NEW YORK (CBS News) – Jose Rodriguez has no regrets about using the “enhanced interrogation techniques” – methods that some consider torture — on al-Qaeda detainees questioned after 9/11 and denies charges they didn’t work.

The former head of the C.I.A.’s Clandestine Service talks to Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” about those methods, including waterboarding, for the first time and defends their use – even comparing them to the current policy of killing al-Qaeda leaders with drone strikes.

Rodriguez says everything his interrogators did to top-level terrorists like Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah was legal and effective. “We made some al-Qaeda terrorists with American blood on their hands uncomfortable for a few days,” he tells Stahl.

“I am very secure in what we did and am very confident that what we did saved American lives,” says Rodriguez, who has written a book on the subject called “Hard Measures.”

Pressed by Stahl about charges that Zubaydah, who was water-boarded and sleep deprived, gave false information that wasted U.S. resources, Rodriguez replies, “Bull%#*$!, He gave us a roadmap that allowed us to capture a bunch of al-Qaeda senior leaders,” says the ex-spy.

Rodriguez says the interrogation program, which also included stress positions, nudity and “insult slaps,” was “about instilling a sense of hopelessness…despair…so that he [the detainee] would conclude on his own that he was better off cooperating with us.”

He says that even Khalid Sheik Mohammed, whom he termed “the toughest detainee we had,” eventually gave up information. Watch an excerpt.

KSM, as the mastermind of 9/11 was known, would not cooperate at first. “He eventually told us, ‘I will talk once I get to New York and I get my lawyer,’” Rodriguez recalls.

But KSM was subjected to the enhanced techniques, including water-boarding and sleep deprivation, and Rodriguez believes, “it was the cumulative effect of waterboarding and sleep deprivation and everything else that was done that eventually got to him.”

Rodriguez maintains he got information from the interrogations of KSM and others that enabled the C.I.A. to disrupt at least 10 large-scale terrorist plots.

But when Stahl reminds him the C.I.A.’s own Inspector General said that his enhanced interrogation program did not stop any imminent attack, Rodriguez says, “We don’t know. …if, for example, Al Qaeda would have been able to continue on with their anthrax program or nuclear program…or sleeper agents …working with Khalid Sheik Mohammed to take down the Brooklyn Bridge, for example.”

Stahl then suggests that KSM was never really broken, because he never gave up Osama bin Laden. “There is a limit…to what they will tell us,” replies Rodriguez.

Rodriguez regrets the cancellation of his enhanced interrogation program by the current administration, accusing the White House of tying America’s hands in the war on terror.

“We don’t capture anyone anymore Lesley…the default option of this administration has been to kill all prisoners. Take no prisoners,” he tells Stahl. “The drones. How could it be more ethical to kill people rather than capture them?”

Don’t miss Lesley Stahl’s interview with Rodriguez, tonight on CBS 6 at 7 p.m.

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