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The Spymasters - CIA in the Crosshairs: Part 2

"48 Hours" Presents: How far should the CIA go to keep America safe? All 12 living CIA directors share their passionate disagreements about the agency's past, its current mission, and its future

LEON PANETTA | CIA DIRECTOR: That memory of going to Arlington to bury one of my officers from the CIA, Elizabeth Hanson, is one that will be with me for a long time. They put their lives on the line to serve this country and that's what Elizabeth Hanson did.

I knew that the CIA officers were there because I ordered them to be there. I had to bear some of the responsibility for having taken this risk.

KHOST, AFGHANISTAN | DECEMBER 30, 2009

NEWS REPORTER: Initial reports indicate the bomber was being recruited by the CIA as a source...

NEWS REPORTER: This was the worst, single loss of life for the CIA since 1983 when a truck bomber blew up the American embassy.

LEON PANETTA: This person obviously turned out to be a double agent and had blown himself up, as well as our officers.

LEON PANETTA : It's hard to find the words when suddenly you're told that seven of your officers have been killed and others seriously wounded. What went through my mind was the families out there, who within a few hours, were going to be informed that someone who, who they loved, had been killed.

LEON PANETTA: We spent a lot of time trying to figure out who were the ones who pushed that button.

LEON PANETTA: We have a lot of sources that we rely on, spies. And so we immediately asked the question: "Who the hell was involved in this tragic suicide bombing?" We were able to get pretty good intelligence.

And so, we knew who the individual was. This was a bad guy and he was clearly a leader. Had been involved, not only in going after our officers, but in killing members of our own forces in Afghanistan.

And it was on the day of Elizabeth Hanson's funeral that I got a call from our operations center. They thought they had pretty good information about where this individual was.

Unfortunately, this individual had family and wife and children around him. And so one of the tough questions was, you know, "what should we do?"

RADIO COMMANDS: Standby. Do not engage. Do not engage the mosque. Roger.

LEON PANETTA: If there were woman and children in the shot, we normally would not take the shot. I remember calling the White House, and they were aware how tough a decision this is. And basically said, "Look, you know, you're going to have to make a judgment here. So, I knew at that point that it was a decision that I was going to have to make. I mean, I'm the one who's going to have to say Hail Marys here.

I was raised a Catholic, I believe in my faith and I rely a great deal on my faith, you know, throughout my life. I've always carried a rosary and always said a helluva lot of Hail Marys uh in tough situations.

And suddenly, you know, I found that I was making decisions on life and death as director. And those decisions are never easy, and frankly they shouldn't be easy. I felt it was really important in that job to do what I could to protect this country.

THE CIA HAS NEVER ACKNOWLEDGED THAT IT OPERATES LETHAL DRONES.

So I passed on the word. I said, if you can isolate the individual and take the shot without impacting on women or children, then do it. But if you have no alternative and it looks like he might get away, uh then, take the shot.

RADIO COMMANDS: Let's go. Roll it in. Wildfire - we're cleared on the building. We're cleared on the big square building. Go ahead and level it. Roger that. Direct hits right there.

LEON PANETTA : And it did involve collateral damage, but we got him.

These are tough decisions, and you're damn right they are tough decisions. But you know this is a war. This is a war. 9/11...these people didn't hesitate a moment to kill 3,000 people and take down the Trade Centers and hit the Pentagon. These are individuals that would not hesitate to attack us again. In the end, what you do I think has to be based on what your guts tell you is right. That's really what it's all about. You have to be true to yourself as to what you think is right and hope that ultimately God agrees with you.

THE KEEPERS OF AMERICA'S SECRETS

INSIDE THE CIA, DIRECTOR JOHN BRENNAN CARRIES THE BURDEN OF COMMAND.

JOHN BRENNAN | DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: I'm forced to make decisions every day.

JOHN BRENNAN: A lot of decisions that we recognize have risks associated with them, significant risks, that sometimes can result in deaths.

DIANNE FEINSTEIN: The CIA's actions a decade ago are a stain on our value and on our history.

NEWS REPORT: The Senate report has publically revealed graphic new details.

NEWS REPORT: ...and the report says detainees were kept in total darkness, shackled to the wall in 45 degree temperatures.

JOHN MCCAIN: You can't claim that tying someone to the floor and having them freeze to death is not torture.

DICK CHENEY: Torture was what the al Qaeda terrorists did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

JOHN BRENNAN: I wish the world were simpler. I wish we didn't have these complex challenges that we face.. where there is not a right and wrong answer, where it's not black and white.

JOHN BRENNAN: On those days when I'm thinking about the things that worry me most, there is the biological agent, there is the devastating strategic type of terrorist attack. Because we know that these individuals are so determined to cause as much havoc and destruction and death as possible.

JOHN BRENNAN: How do you deal with this phenomenon that we're facing as far as terrorism - like ISIS and their wanton murderous activities?

PARIS, FRANCE |NOVEMBER 13, 2015

NEWS REPORTER: ISIS rules with brutality and fear, publicly executing those who offend its strict version of Islamic law.

JOHN BRENNAN: Well, we can let these terrorist organizations thrive and not take action against them or we can try to take action that's going to disrupt their plans.

IN A CONFLICT AGAINST A RUTHLESS ENEMY, WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR AMERICA'S SPYMASTERS?

DOES THE CIA GO TOO FAR - OR NOT FAR ENOUGH?

GEORGE TENET | DIRECTOR, CLINTON AND GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATIONS: Sometimes I think we get ourselves into a frenzy--into believing that killing is the only answer to a problem. And the truth is, it's not.

HAS THE CIA BECOME A SECRET ARMY, A KILLING MACHINE?

ROBERT GATES | DIRECTOR, GEORGE H.W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: You're sitting there in the middle of nowhere in Nevada and you're looking at a screen that is televising what looks for all the world like a big video game and push a button and a pickup truck explodes half a world away.

PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH | DIRECTOR, FORD ADMINISTRATION: I mean, if they're bad guys and they're doing us harm, I have no problem with that.

MICHAEL HAYDEN | DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: Now the dark side. You know, you can't be perfect. There is collateral damage.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: We feed the jihadi recruitment video that these Americans are heartless killers.

ONLY 12 MEN ALIVE TODAY HAVE MADE THE LIFE AND DEATH DECISIONS THAT COME WITH RUNNING THE WORLD'S MOST POWERFUL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY.


MICHAEL HAYDEN: Let me bare my soul just a little bit more...

THE KEEPERS OF AMERICA'S SECRETS -- THE SPYMASTERS -- AND THEIR TOP OPERATIVES SHARE THEIR CONVICTIONS AND, FOR THE FIRST TIME, THEIR PASSIONATE DISAGREEMENTS ABOUT THE AGENCY'S PAST, ITS CURRENT MISSION, AND ITS FUTURE. IT IS A BATTLE FOR THE SOUL ... OF THE CIA.

LEON PANETTA: When you're confronting an enemy that's prepared to blow up and kill innocent men, women and children, you have to go at them using the capabilities that we have.

LEON PANETTA: If we fail to do this and God forbid this country faced another 9/11. You know what the first question would be--why the hell did you let this happen? Why the hell did you let this happen?

THEY'RE COMING HERE

GINA BENNETT | SENIOR COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, BIN LADEN UNIT: If you are a terrorism analyst for long enough, you will have many moments where you will feel responsible. Responsible for not having stayed long enough, not having stayed late enough, not having thought hard enough. Not having plowed through enough data to connect those proverbial dots. And you'll see on the other end of that, individuals who are hurt or killed.

GINA BENNETT: I gave birth to my first son in what was a very emergency C-section. He was quite early. I was lying down in my hospital bed. Still trying to get over some of the pain. My phone rang and I heard my boss (LAUGH) screaming on the other end, "Your people did this, your people did this." And I had no idea what she was talking about, but I knew she meant something bad had happened.

And I turned on the television and I saw, and I knew what she meant.

FEBRUARY 26, 1993

NEWS REPORTER: We heard a tremendous explosion. The entire building...

IN AN UNDERGROUND GARAGE IN NEW YORK CITY, A VAN PACKED WITH EXPLOSIVES DETONATES - KILLING SIX PEOPLE AND INJURING MORE THAN A THOUSAND. IT WOULD BE THE FIRST ATTACK ON THE WORLD TRADE CENTER.

NEWS REPORTER: The fact is, at this hour, police simply don't know who did this or why.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN | ACTING DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: The big message that comes out of the 1993 Trade Center bombing is that-- a threshold has been crossed. They've hit us here. But you know thinking back on it. I'm not sure that message was as powerfully absorbed as we can see it in retrospect.

THE TRAIL WOULD LEAD TO A SHADOWY NETWORK OF JIHADISTS IN AFGHANISTAN THAT THE WORLD WOULD COME TO KNOW AS AL QAEDA AND A CHARISMATIC SAUDI MULTIMILLIONAIRE.

GINA BENNETT: I had likened Osama bin Laden at the time to--and I know this is horrible to say, but to Donald Trump. You know, he was like the Donald Trump of the terrorism underworld. He had the wherewithal and a vision that was clearly controversial and different from everybody else, but, you know, the tenacity to follow it. I definitely drew a lot of snickers from my-- from my colleagues who thought I was making a mountain out of a molehill and blowing him out of proportion.

AUGUST 7, 1998. SUICIDE TRUCK BOMBERS STRIKE AMERICAN EMBASSIES IN TANZANIA AND KENYA, EAST AFRICA. 224 PEOPLE LIE DEAD -- TWO OF THEM CIA OFFICERS.

GEORGE TENET | DIRECTOR 1997-2004: After the East Africa bombings, I sat at home and furiously drafted a memo called We're at War.

GEORGE TENET: Enough swatting at flies. We need to put a worldwide plan in place where we can start demonstrating that we can penetrate this adversary, get into the sanctuary, penetrate his major operational hubs, and set us up for really providing policymakers with hard intelligence for which they could make decisions.

COFER BLACK, A LEGENDARY OPERATIVE, HAD ESCAPED AN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT BY AL QAEDA WHILE SERVING IN KHARTOUM.

COFER BLACK | DIRECTOR, COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER, 1999-2002: The first week that I was in the counter terrorism center, you know, new chief comes in, they stick you in a conference room and all the people start coming in and briefing you on their areas of activity. I don't shock easy. But I was shocked. This was a wave of threats coming at the United States. There was no doubt in my mind that the United States was going to be struck and struck hard. Lots of Americans were going to die.

AS AL QAEDA GROWS MORE LETHAL, CIA DIRECTOR GEORGE TENET FACES A TEST THAT WILL DEFINE HIS PLACE IN HISTORY: CAN THE CIA STOP BIN LADEN BEFORE HE STRIKES THE UNITED STATES AGAIN?

GEORGE TENET: On September 28th, 2000 - we were testing-- drones over Afghanistan-- when we saw a very tall man in white robes who we assumed at the time was bin Laden.

COFER BLACK: I mean - I love this. This is such a Washington thing. Our instructions were to capture him. And that's what we -- attempted to do. And the difference between capturing, I would think, and the alternative, is significant. And the gap is large.

GEORGE TENET: Killing bin Laden in the time period we operated was never an option. Because the attorney general of the United States made it abundantly clear that he could only be killed in the context of a capture operation.

QUESTION Did you tell the White House, did you tell Janet Reno, "Look, you don't get it. We have to kill this guy. We have to take him down"?

GEORGE TENET: No. I'll tell you why. I have an institutional responsibility - I play in a process where the president of the United States and the attorney general have to accept responsibility for the actions we're gonna take.

BUT THE EAST AFRICA BOMBINGS IN 1998 HAD CHANGED THE CALCULUS FOR PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON. HE LAUNCHED CRUISE MISSILE STRIKES IN AN EFFORT TO KILL BIN LADEN. BUT THEY MISSED.

COFER BLACK: The Clinton --Administration spent eight years learning to appreciate this threat. And only at the very end did they get it.

President Bush: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.

GEORGE TENET: In the spring of 2001, we submitted authorities to the incoming Bush administration, advocating a paramilitary operation. And the word back was-- "We're not quite ready to consider this. We don't want the clock to start ticking."

QUESTION What did that mean to you?

GEORGE TENET: That the administration was not quite ready to consider what its options were with regard to terrorism.

COFER BLACK: I think they were mentally stuck back eight years ago, when they were in power they were used to terrorists being euro lefties--drink champagne by night, blow things up during the day and it was a very difficult sell to communicate the urgency to this.

AFGHANISTAN | SUMMER OF 2001

GINA BENNETT: For us the system was blinking red in the sense that we thought what we were uncovering was a top-down plot. Something being ordered from Afghanistan out. But it was very difficult for us to figure out what it was.

THE CRISIS COMES TO A HEAD ON JULY 10, 2001. RICHARD BLEE, THE HEAD OF THE BIN LADEN UNIT, BARGES INTO COFER BLACK'S OFFICE.

CIA HEADQUARTERS | LANGLEY, VIRGINIA

COFER BLACK: He comes and he goes, "Okay, roof's fallen in." I said, "Great. Whatcha got?"

COFER BLACK: The information that we had now compiled was absolutely compelling. It was multiple-sourced. It was sort of the -- the last straw.

GEORGE TENET: It's not just red lights, red lights and chatter is a convenient way this is portrayed. There were real plots being manifested. The American embassy in Sana'a is gonna be bombed, British and American schools in Jeddah are gonna be bombed the world was on the edge of eruption. Now what happens then .... in June and July, the threat continues to rise. Public pronouncements by people in al Qaeda was there would be eight major celebrations coming. The world was gonna be stunned by what would soon happen.

COFER BLACK: We decided the next thing to do was pick up the White phone, call the White House - we're coming down right now.

GEORGE TENET: I said, "Condi, I have to come see you." It was one of the rare times in my seven years as director where I said, "I have to come see you. We're comin' right now."

PRESENT AT THE JULY 10 WHITE HOUSE MEETING ARE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR CONDOLEEZZA RICE AND OTHER TOP OFFICIALS.

GEORGE TENET: So, Rich started by saying-- "There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al-Qaeda's intention is the destruction of the United States."

COFER BLACK: And I said, "This country's gotta go on a war footing now." I slammed my hand on the table.

COFER BLACK: After it was over, Rich Blee and I sort of congratulated each other in the sense that, "I think we've finally gotten through to these people. We have executed our responsibilities."

QUESTION What happened?

COFER BLACK: Yeah. What did happen? Yeah. What happened?

QUESTION Essentially, nothing happened?

COFER BLACK: Yeah, that's right.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE WOULD LATER WRITE THAT HER MEMORY OF THE MEETING WAS 'NOT VERY CRISP BECAUSE WE WERE DISCUSSING THE THREAT EVERY DAY.' HAVING RAISED THE ALERT LEVELS FOR U.S. PERSONNEL ABROAD, SHE ADDED: "I THOUGHT WE WERE DOING WHAT NEEDED TO BE DONE."

COFER BLACK:You know what really does piss me off? When people call this an intelligence failure. We knew this was comin', you know. American interests gonna be attacked. Could very well be in the United States. It's serious. It's coming.

COFER BLACK: Sometimes when I drive my car I think about it. And to me it remains incomprehensible still. I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened. I mean, it's kind of like -- sort of -- "Twilight Zone." You almost sometimes feel like you want to pinch yourself.

GEORGE TENET: At the end of July, we were sitting in my conference room just thinking about all of this and trying to figure out how this attack might occur. And I'll never forget this till the day I die. Rich Blee looked at everybody and said, "They're coming here." And the silence that followed was deafening. You could hear a pin drop....."They're coming here."

"A TICKING TIME BOMB EVERY DAY"

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

WOMAN: Holy s--t, the first one we thought was an accident, when we heard there was a second one we definitely thought it was terrorism...

MAN: And I heard a roar and I looked up and saw the second plane hit...

NEWS REPORTER: Lots of people were crying, holding on to each other...

MAN: I'm seeing bodies falling out of buildings.

WOMAN: oh...They're jumping...

911 OPERATOR: Hold on one second please.

WOMAN: I'm going to die aren't I?

OPERATOR: No, no, no, no.

WOMAN: I don't want to die.

OPERATOR: Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm, stay calm... please God.

THAT DAY, MICHAEL MORELL, THE PRESIDENT'S BRIEFER, IS WITH GEORGE W. BUSH IN FLORIDA.

MICHAEL MORELL: It was our job to prevent an attack and we didn't do it. On our watch, this happened.

MICHAEL MORELL: We went back to Air Force One. There was a ring of Secret Service agents around Air Force One with automatic weapons. We took off. We went up at a very steep ascent.

MICHAEL MORELL: In his office, on Air Force One, the President said to me, "Michael who did this?" And I said, "Mr. President, both Iran and Iraq have absolutely nothing to gain and have everything to lose from doing this. I would bet my children's future that this is al Qaeda. This is bin Laden."

NEWS REPORTER: Two of the hijackers on board the airliner which attacked the Pentagon had been identified more than a year and a half before as suspected terrorists, yet nothing was done to stop Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Kalid Al-Midhar from entering the U.S. and no attempt was made to find them until just three weeks before September 11th.

QUESTION: Why didn't CIA, why didn't somebody pick up the phone to FBI and say, "hey, these two guys are here?"

GEORGE TENET | DIRECTOR, CLINTON AND GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: At root here is we didn't have the seamless interaction. We didn't have the ability to fuse things quickly. Our policies were out of date.

MICHAEL MORELL | ACTING DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: The information that the CIA had about the two hijackers in the United States should have been routinely shared with the FBI and it wasn't.

TWO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES, CHARGED WITH PROTECTING THE UNITED STATES, WERE BARELY COMMUNICATING.

COFER BLACK | DIRECTOR COUNTER TERRORISM CENTER 1999-02; CIA 1974-02: An elected official came up to me and said, "So Cofer how does it feel to be responsible for the largest intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor?"

CBS NEWS SPECIAL REPORT | THOMAS KEAN: Our government failed to protect the American people. This was a failure of policy, management, capability and above all, a failure of imagination. None of the measures adopted by the United States government before 9/11 disturbed or even delayed the progress of the al Qaeda plot.

QUESTION There was never a moment in all of this time when you blamed yourself?

GEORGE TENET: Look, There- there, I'm-- I-- I still look at the ceiling at night about a lotta things and I'll keep them to myself forever. But-- w-- we're all human beings.

GEORGE TENET: I do remember - the whole emotional impact of 9/11 struck me very hard as I sat on my front lawn after Thanksgiving one day. The horror of what happened hit me. There was no time between 9/11 and that moment. I just didn't have any time.

NO TIME ... BECAUSE THE CIA WOULD NOW BE CALLED UPON TO PUT ITS WAR PLAN AGAINST AL QAEDA INTO ACTION.

GEORGE TENET: On September the 15th, we essentially outline our plan, seal the borders of Afghanistan, go after their leadership, shut off their money, destroy al Qaeda.

COFER BLACK: We're saying, "Take our plan. Let us go first." And I said, "Mr. President, when we're done, these guys are gonna have flies walkin' across their eyeballs." And I could see the president was thinking, "Wait, flies on eyeballs, --" then he got it. And he says, "We'll use the CIA plan. CIA will be first boots on the ground.

110 CIA OFFICERS AND 300 SPECIAL FORCES SWEEP INTO THE TRIBAL AREAS WHERE THEY WILL JOIN WITH WARRIORS OF THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE AND UPROOT THE TALIBAN AND AL QAEDA FROM THEIR SAFE HOLD IN AFGHANISTAN.

THE CIA'S MESSAGE: IF YOU ARE WITH US YOU'LL BE REWARDED.

GEORGE TENET: Our officers often slept on millions of dollars of cash at night. There was never a general on the ground. There was never a command structure on the ground. This was real counter insurgency.

COFER BLACK: In about nine weeks, all cities controlled by the Taliban had been overthrown. All al Qaeda in Afghanistan had either been killed, captured, were running for the border, or crossed the border.

BUT THE CIA'S LIGHTNING VICTORY IS FLEETING, BECAUSE THE TERRORIST LEADER CROSSES THE BORDER INTO PAKISTAN ... AND DISAPPEARS.

MICHAEL MORELL: I'm not sure I ever saw the President get mad except this one occasion. And um, he was furious.

AND NOW THE AGENCY'S FINEST HOUR IS ABOUT TO BE FOLLOWED BY ONE OF ITS DARKEST CHAPTERS: BECAUSE THE WHITE HOUSE IS EYEING ANOTHER TARGET: IRAQ.

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: And he had established relationship with al Qaeda.

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: There was a relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq that stretched back ten years. That's not something I thought of - that's what the director of central intelligence was telling us.

GEORGE TENET: This connection did not exist. We intervened on numerous occasions to say so. Everybody knew what our point of view was.

GEORGE TENET: And I remember once going to the president and saying, "Look-- this has gotta stop. We can't support this language.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN | ACTING DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: We stuck with that view - Saddam was not involved in 9/11.

BUT ON THE CENTRAL QUESTION: DOES SADDAM HUSSEIN HAVE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION? THE CIA'S ANSWER IS YES. IN THE OVAL OFFICE DIRECTOR TENET REASSURES GEORGE W. BUSH - WITH A METAPHOR THAT BECOMES INFAMOUS.

GEORGE TENET: I said we can make this better, it's a slam dunk.

Reporter: It was Tenet who assured President Bush the question of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction was a slam dunk.

GEORGE TENET: Now the way it was portrayed was this was the seminal moment in the president's life in terms of deciding whether to go to war or not. And that's not what happened at all. The decision to go to war -- orders to send troops had already been signed. I mean, we - we were way down the road here.

THE PUBLIC CASE TO GO TO WAR WILL BE MADE BY SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL IN A PIVOTAL SPEECH VETTED BY THE CIA AND GEORGE TENET.

COLIN POWELL: We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction; he's determined to make more.

GEORGE TENET: It should've never been in the speech. Our senior officer in Germany was writing cables in that there were problems with the source, "Don't use this source." Never surfaced to us.

GEORGE TENET: You know, we let him down. And he knows how I feel about all this.

PRESIDENT BUSH: My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free ... its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

NEWS REPORT: It's been 21 months since President Bush launched the invasion of Iraq based in large part on the faulty intelligence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction

NEWS REPORT: The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued a scathing report on CIA intelligence failures on the threat level of pre-war Iraq.

SEN. JOHN ROCKEFELLER: We went to war in Iraq based on false claims.

GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN | DIRECTOR 2006-09; EMPTIED "BLACK SITES:" Our blame in this was not just that we were wrong. We were and that's bad, but we did not communicate our ambiguity, we did not communicate that we had anything except full confidence in our estimates to the policy-makers and that's really the issue.

GEORGE TENET: Our analysts were good and honest people. There's no political motivation here. We basically came to those conclusions.

QUESTION Nobody cooked the books?

GEORGE TENET: No. Look - look, if we wanted to cook the books-- if you wanted to cook the books all you needed to do was say-- "Ir-- Iraq was directly involved in 9/11." Game, set, match point, over. We never did that. So we were wrong and we have to take responsibility for that but at the end of the day policy makers need to be a little bit more forthcoming about what their own motivations were. In this instance perhaps, how to remake the Middle East.

THE WAR RAGES ON FOR EIGHT YEARS ... SEWING CHAOS AND DESTRUCTION ... LEAVING NEARLY 5,000 AMERICANS DEAD, 30,000 WOUNDED AND HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF IRAQIS KILLED.

ROBERT GATES | DIRECTOR, GEORGE H. W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: An intelligence failure, such as that that took place in 2003, changes history.

RISING FROM THE ASHES OF IRAQ - A TERROR GROUP NOW KNOWN AS ISIS. RUTHLESS AND BARBARIC. THEY WILL BE A FORMIDABLE ENEMY IN THE YEARS AHEAD, BUT IN THE AFTERMATH OF 9/11, THE CIA FACES A MORE IMMEDIATE THREAT: AL QAEDA IS POISED TO STRIKE AMERICA AGAIN.

GEORGE TENET: We could not afford to be hit again. Everything that we hold dear was at risk.

THE CIA BELIEVES BIN LADEN HAS THE DESIGN, MATERIALS AND TARGET... FOR A NUCLEAR WEAPON.

GEORGE TENET: We began to receive reporting that al Qaeda had placed a nuclear weapon in New York City.

THE CIA GOES INTO OVERDRIVE, KNOWING THAT THE COST OF ANOTHER 9/11 WOULD BE BEYOND MEASUREMENT.

GEORGE TENET: This period of time, with what we knew about their interest in weapons of mass destruction and what we knew about the conventional threats that we were seeing every day made it feel as if we were living a ticking time bomb every single day for a period of three years.

"THIS IS MY JOB, TO KILL YOU"

LEON PANETTA: Where the hell was this guy that was our No. 1 enemy?

LEON PANETTA: Every lead led nowhere for almost 10 years. It was pretty frustrating. But then we had an indication from Jordan - there was a doctor that if they were able to get him in to Pakistan, he might be able to lead us to Zawahiri, who was the second in command.

THE CIA BELIEVES IT HAS STRUCK GOLD. HUMAM AL-BALAWI, A JORDANIAN DOCTOR, NOW PROMISES TO LEAD THEM TO THE MOTHER LODE.

LEON PANETTA: He had been a jihadist. The Jordanian Intelligence operation thought they had been successful in flipping him.

CIA OFFICERS THOUGHT SO TOO. LIKE 30 YEAR-OLD ELIZABETH HANSON. AND STATION CHIEF JENNIFER MATHEWS, A 20-YEAR AGENCY VETERAN.

LEON PANETTA | DIRECTOR, 2009-11: Jennifer Mathews was in charge of the officers who were there. I wouldn't have hesitated a moment to put her into that position because of her capability and her proven record.

GINA BENNETT | SENIOR COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, 1998-PRESENT: Jennifer I met in the late 1990's when I first came to the counter-terrorist center. We were both working on understanding the support network to al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And we were also pregnant at the same time, multiple times. She had three children. Her three tracked with my - my third, fourth and fifth.

MICHAEL HAYDEN | DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: She was chasing bin Laden before chasing bin Laden was cool. And she had actually based her professional career on tracking al Qaeda and identifying its adherents.

BUT TO GET TO OSAMA BIN LADEN, MATTHEWS AND HER CIA TEAM WANT A FACE-TO-FACE MEETING WITH AL-BALAWI. IT'S A GAMBLE THAT MUST BE APPROVED BY DIRECTOR PANETTA.

LEON PANETTA: We at the CIA felt we had to establish our own credibility with this guy and to do that you really had to sit down with him and do a meeting, to really gain some insight as to who we're dealing with.

LEON PANETTA: The vehicle comes in to the base they brought him through some of the checkpoints. They make the decision that they are all going to go out to greet him. One of the mistakes that was made was there was no body search. There was no check. They thought that it would show that, you know, that they were - that they were friendly and that they were all anxious to be able to work with him.

BUT AL-BALAWI IS NOT ABOUT TO TURN INTO A CIA SPY.

BALAWI SUICIDE VIDEO: We will beat you CIA team. Inshallah we will beat you down. Don't think that you just pressing a button killing mujahideen you are safe. Inshallah death will come to you.

THIS IS THE VIDEO HE MADE LAYING OUT HIS PLANS, HIS MARTYR SUICIDE VIDEO.

BALAWI SUICIDE VIDEO: Look, this is for you. It's not watch. It's detonator to kill as much as I can Inshallah. This is my job to kill you.

AL-BALAWI IS AN AL QAEDA AGENT...READY TO KILL, READY TO DIE.

BALAWI SUICIDE VIDEO: and you will be sent to the hell...

LEON PANETTA:His hands were hidden. They demanded that he take his hands out. They kept yelling at him. And before they knew it he had detonated his suicide vest. It blew up everyone who was in the area and the ball bearings from the vest actually went under the vehicle and tore the legs of several other officers who were there. So that almost everybody who was in that semicircle was wounded or killed.

SEVEN CIA OFFICERS ARE DEAD. INCLUDING ELIZABETH HANSON AND HER FRIEND, JENNIFER MATTHEWS.

GINA BENNETT: I have one memory of Jennifer that is the one I choose to recall. One time Jennifer and I were traveling overseas. And we were in a tiny little beat up car she has the radio up, all crackly and horrible. But you hear the unmistakable piano intro to Gloria Gaynor's "I will Survive," which any woman can tell you is one of our anthems. And Jennifer cranks that radio all the way up, belting out, "As long as I know how to love, I know I will survive." Just dancin'. That's how I remember her, living larger than life. She just was all heart. As much as al Qaeda thinks they destroyed her that day, they made her immortal. She will always survive.

LEON PANETTA: It was very personal, personal for me, personal for the other officers at the CIA.

IT ISN'T LONG BEFORE LEON PANETTA MAKES THAT LIFE-AND-DEATH DECISION -- CALLING IN A DEADLY DRONE STRIKE ON THE MASTERMIND OF THAT SUICIDE BOMBING ... THE STRIKE THAT ALSO KILLED HIS FAMILY.

LEON PANETTA: Probably the biggest consequence was that the, gut feeling in every officers' inner being that that their goal was to go after the leadership of al Qaeda.

"THE FOG OF WAR"

GEORGE TENET | DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: We needed to get real-time information as fast as we possibly could to protect the country and ensure there wasn't another attack on the homeland.

THE CIA UNDER GEORGE TENET NOW EMBARKS ON A CONTROVERSIAL INTERROGATION PROGRAM THAT WILL COME BACK TO HAUNT IT... ONE THAT BEGINS WITH A SINGLE PRISONER.

GEORGE TENET: Abu Zubaydah was a major terrorist facilitator and planner on the part of Al Qaeda. We believed that he had important and significant information to provide.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: Through an incredibly difficult targeting effort, we were able to finally capture him in March of 2002.

FAISALABAD, PAKISTAN

JOSE RODRIGUEZ | DIRECTOR, COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER 2002-04: There was a firefight and Abu Zubaydah is severely wounded.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: So we needed to take him somewhere where we could interrogate him ourselves, away from the public light.

JOHN DEUTCH | DIRECTOR 1995-96: You're director of central intelligence and somebody comes forward and says to you we got these bad guys, we know they're bad guys. What would you like us to do with them? Well the old traditional way would have been to put them in the back of the truck and shoot 'em. Well that's not a very good idea, is it?

JOHN DEUTCH: Should we bring 'em back to the United States? Give them the full protection of the US Constitution? Allow them to have lawyers present to protect their rights as if they were American citizens? I'd like to know what are you going to tell the director of Central Intelligence to do?

IN ORDER TO INTERROGATE THEIR PRISONERS, THE CIA CREATES A NETWORK OF SO-CALLED BLACK SITES ... SECRET PRISONS THAT EVENTUALLY WILL HOLD AT LEAST 119 SUSPECTED AL QAEDA TERRORISTS. IN CHARGE OF THE SITES IS JOSE RODRIGUEZ.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: Black sites were instrumental in helping us gain very invaluable information.

QUESTION: Some critics might say, "Well, wait a minute - you wanted to be able to abuse this guy. You didn't want any rules. You wanted to--"

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: Well, that's--

QUESTION:"torture the guy."

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: That's bulls--t.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: In fact, by accepting prisoners, we actually became responsible for them, for their health - for them totally.

THAILAND | JUNE 2002

JOSE RODRIGUEZ:Abu Zubaydah had provided some early useful information and then he stopped talking. George Tenet was going to the White House every day and the president was asking George, "What is Abu Zubaydah saying about the second wave of attacks and about all these other programs?" Well, he was not saying anything. And we knew we had to do something different. And over the summer months of 2002 put together what became the enhanced interrogation program.

TO RUN ITS PROGRAM, THE CIA HIRES TWO PSYCHOLOGISTS WHO HAD TRAINED U.S AIRMEN TO RESIST ENEMY TORTURE; THEY HAVE NO EXPERIENCE IN INTERROGATION AND NO KNOWLEDGE OF AL QAEDA. BUT THEIR COMPANY IS PAID A STAGGERING SUM OF $81 MILLION.

UNDER CIA SUPERVISION, DETAINEES WOULD BE SLAPPED AND GRABBED; DEPRIVED OF SLEEP; FORCED ONTO LIQUID DIETS; EVEN CONFINED IN A COFFIN-LIKE BOX WITH LIVE INSECTS.

MICHAEL HAYDEN | DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: There was nudity. There was water dousing, cramped confinement, stress positions.


AND THEN THERE IS A TECHNIQUE MADE INFAMOUS BY HOLLYWOOD: WATERBOARDING.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: The opening scene of "Zero Dark Thirty," where you see all these prisoners being abused by CIA officers, spontaneous waterboarding with a pail. Total bulls--t. Made up stuff.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: The body responds as if the body thinks its drowning. Am I happy we had to do it? Of course not.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: We had doctors there to make sure that no harm - came to the individual. I'm not trying to minimize how unpleasant - this technique was. It is not torture. You know, lawyers looked at this. Had they said, this is torture, we would not do it.

GEORGE TENET: These techniques and the proposal to use these techniques on any human being are sent to the Department of Justice immediately. Because we wanna know that it is legal under U.S. law and does not in any way compromise our adherence to international torture statutes. And the attorney general of the United States told us that it did not. It's also important to know that the president of the United States authorized these techniques.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: Only three detainees were ever waterboarded, by the way. Three killers that had American blood on their hands were waterboarded by us. Give me a break. Give me a break.

QUESTION You say that this program was carefully managed.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

QUESTION Did anybody die?

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: At the beginning of 2002 when we started to take prisoners, we just did not know what we were doing. We are not jailers, we don't have those skills. And abuses were made. And we have fessed up to those.

ONE DETAINEE, SEVERELY INJURED DURING HIS CAPTURE, IS LEFT UNTREATED DURING A CIA INTERROGATION AT AN IRAQI PRISON...AND DIES. ANOTHER IS SHACKLED HALF-NAKED ON A COLD FLOOR AT A CIA BLACK SITE IN AFGHANISTAN. HE IS FOUND DEAD - OF HYPOTHERMIA. NO CHARGES ARE EVER BROUGHT AGAINST THE OFFICERS INVOLVED.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: It's awful that those things happen. But happen - s--t happens, you know. I mean, you know, we were at war. The fog of war.

GEORGE TENET SAYS THAT ABU ZUBAYDAH, HIS RESISTANCE WEAKENED, GIVES UP A VALUABLE LEAD TO THE WHEREABOUTS OF AN AL QAEDA TERRORIST SECOND IN IMPORTANCE ONLY TO OSAMA BIN LADEN HIMSELF.

GEORGE TENET: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11, was captured as a result of an elaborate human operation that was informed by data that interrogated detainees gave us.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: We took him - to a black site where we would have the opportunity to debrief him on what he knew about threats against - our homeland.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: He was smart, scary smart. Hannibal Lecter. Pure evil.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: We asked him, "what do you know about plots against the U.S.?" And his answer was, "Soon you will know," which was a chilling response - because we also knew that he was planning a second wave of attacks.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: He actually didn't have a problem with waterboarding. He withstood waterboarding.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed knew that in all likelihood we would stop at ten seconds. And he would count with his fingers. He would go and then look at us like, "You know, hey, it's time to stop."

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: Had it not been for the accumulation of techniques and I think sleep deprivation finally - led him to - become compliant.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: Afterwards, he wouldn't stop talking.

WATERBOARDED AND SLEEP-DEPRIVED, KHALID SHEIK MUHAMMED WOULD INADVERTENTLY POINT TO A COURIER WHO WOULD HELP STEER THE CIA TO IT'S ULTIMATE TARGET: OSAMA BIN LADEN.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN | ACTING DIRECTOR 2004: It was only when a number of detainees after interrogation revealed that indeed Bin Laden had sent a message to his operations chief via this courier that flagged this courier and caused him to rise to the top of the many candidates of people we could follow.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: We then raised Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti as a name to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who at that point had become largely cooperative. And then since we've got the place wired, we hear KSM tell other detainees, don't talk about the courier. And our folks in the bin Laden cell go after Abu Ahmed one grain of sand at a time, identify him and follow him eventually to Abbottabad.

THE MISSION THAT WOULD KILL OSAMA BIN LADEN -- OPERATION NEPTUNE SPEAR -- WOULD BE A CIA COVERT OPERATION.

PRESIDENT OBAMA | May 1, 2011: Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda...

"TWO DAMN UGLY DECISIONS"

DIANNE FEINSTEIN | December 9, 2014: The CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques were not an effective way to gather intelligence information. The CIA provided inaccurate information to the White House the Department of Justice, Congress. The CIA program was far more brutal than people were led to believe.

GEORGE TENET | DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: The country deserved a thoughtful assessment of what happened in the immediate years after 9/11.That's not what we got.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right. But we tortured some folks.

AFTER A FIVE-YEAR INVESTIGATION OF MORE THAN SIX MILLION PAGES OF CIA DOCUMENTS, THE DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY OF THE SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE ISSUES A SCATHING INDICTMENT. IT SAYS THE AGENCY MISLED CONGRESS ABOUT THE BRUTALITY OF ITS INTERROGATION PROGRAM - AND THAT NO EVIDENCE WAS PRODUCED THAT DISRUPTED PLOTS OR SAVED LIVES.

THE EFFECTIVENESS, AND MORALITY, OF THE PROGRAM WOULD TRIGGER AN IMPASSIONED DEBATE AMONG THE DIRECTORS...

GEORGE TENET: People are throwing the word "torture" around, you know, as if - as if we're - we're torturers.

GEORGE TENET: I'm not gonna ever accept the use of the word "torture" in front of - what--what happened here. I'm not going to fall to that.

DIANNE FEINSTEIN: History will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say, "never again."

PORTER GOSS | DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: I think it is a hopelessly incorrect conclusion based on flawed information.

DIANNE FEINSTEIN: We took 20 examples that the CIA itself claimed to show the success of these interrogations and not a single case holds up.

GEORGE TENET: They are virtually wrong in all 20 of the cases.

MICHAEL MORELL | ACTING DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: One of the 20 cases is a senior al Qaeda operative telling us that al Qaeda had moved to a particular city in Pakistan. That's what he told us before enhanced interrogation techniques. After enhanced interrogation techniques he actually sits down with satellite photography and points out the actual buildings where senior al Qaeda operatives are which allows us to go and deal with them.

GEORGE TENET: The value in my estimation as I sat at my 5:00 meeting every night and as we were using this information to break up plots, capture leaders, stop further attacks against the United States was enormously high.

AND TENET INSISTS THAT INTELLIGENCE FROM THE 'ENHANCED INTERROGATIONS' LEADS TO THE CAPTURE OF A TERRORIST PLANNING A SPECTACULAR ATTACK.

GEORGE TENET: He had already recruited 17 Southeast Asians to engage in an airline plot against the West Coast of the United States. The value is--

QUESTION: The report says you had that information from other sources.

GEORGE TENET: The report is dead wrong on every account, period. End of paragraph.

AND TENET IS CERTAIN THAT THE ENHANCED INTERROGATIONS LED THEM TO BIN LADEN.

GEORGE TENET: The bin Laden operation would not have been possible without the courier in question being highlighted as prominently as he was by detainees.

BUT DIRECTOR JOHN BRENNAN WAS TROUBLED BY THE BRUTAL TECHNIQUES, AND SAYS THE JURY IS STILL OUT ON THEIR EFFECTIVENESS.

JOHN BRENNAN | CURRENT DIRECTOR; FORMER DEPUTY TO GEORGE TENET: There were a number of those techniques that - I personally - felt were inappropriate, not necessary, beyond the pale.

I was not in the -- in the chain of command, but I was a CIA officer, I was a senior CIA officer at the time. And I had expressed my - my discomfort and my - my concerns about-- these techniques, believing that they were going to-- come back to haunt us, the CIA. I did that with individuals, colleagues at the agency.

QUESTION: Did he ever come and complain to you about the enhanced-interrogation techniques?

GEORGE TENET: Nope.

QUESTION: He never came to you and said, "Hey, you know what, George? I think this is wrong"?

GEORGE TENET: Nope.

QUESTION: He never did?

GEORGE TENET: Nope.

JOHN BRENNAN: It's not as though I went up and down the halls of CIA and said, "We shouldn't be doin' this. We shouldn't be doing this." Looking back on it now, should I have spoken out more loudly about it? Maybe. I think about that a lot.

THE WATERBOARDING OF TWO PRISONERS WAS ACTUALLY RECORDED. BUT THE VIDEOTAPES WERE DESTROYED.

PORTER GOSS | DIRECTOR 2004-06: While I was still the director at a morning briefing at the end of the briefing somebody said "oh by the way the tapes were destroyed." And I rose out of my chair and said, "What?"

JOSE RODRIGUEZ | DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CLANDESTINE SERVICES: My primary motivation in destroying the tapes was to protect the people who work for me. They showed people naked, being waterboarded and going through the enhanced interrogation techniques.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: But I knew that the tapes would play as if -- you know-- we were all--psychopaths and that's something that we didn't want.

A NECESSARY EVIL? OR A BETRAYAL OF AMERICAN VALUES?

LEON PANETTA | DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Somebody has to stand up and be willing to say, this is not what our country is about.

WILLIAM WEBSTER | DIRECTOR 1987-91; FEDERAL JUDGE; FBI DIRECTOR: Our Constitution does prohibit "cruel and unusual" treatment. If it's cruel, we shouldn't be doing it. We've got to have people who are prepared to say, "Mr. President you can't do that. It's illegal."

MICHAEL HAYDEN: Let's have a CIA director being interviewed here after the second wave and, and you get to ask him the question, "Now, look the Department of Justice said it was legal, but yet you refuse to do it. How do you feel about your decision now?" And so let's not pretend that this is the forces of light and forces of darkness. These are two damn ugly decisions.

DAVID PETRAEUS | DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: As the commander of the multinational force in Iraq we actually had 27,000 detainees at the high watermark of our operations.

DAVID PETRAEUS: My view quite simply is that if you want information from a detainee you become his best friend. You have to have very skilled interrogators, very skilled analysts and so forth. It's a long process.

ADMIRAL STANSFIELD TURNER | DIRECTOR 1977-81: I just don't think a country like ours should be culpable of conducting torture. I just think it's beneath our dignity. I think it's poor for our reputation in the world.

MICHAEL MORELL: Should a country, the United States of America, which stands for human rights in the world, which stands for human dignity, probably more than any country--do those techniques to another human being? Right? That's - that's- a really reasonable question.

MICHAEL MORELL | ACTING DIRECTOR 2012: If I were captured by an adversary and somebody slapped me in the face would I come back and say I was tortured? No. If somebody waterboarded me would I come back and say I was tortured? Yes.

GEORGE TENET: You can judge us. We made those decisions for good and valid reasons and all I would be able to say is-- we sat where we sat. We decided what we did. We understood the implications.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I can stand here today as President of the United States and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture.

BUT SOME WHO WANT TO BE PRESIDENT, HAVE NO SUCH QUALMS.

DONALD TRUMP: "We have people chopping the heads off of Christians ...I would bring back waterboarding. And I'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding."

JOHN BRENNAN: If a president tomorrow asked me to waterboard a terrorist I would say, "Mr. President, sorry, I do not believe that that is what is in our best interest as a country, as an institution of CIA. And we need to find other ways to get that intelligence."

MICHAEL HAYDEN: If some future president is going to decide to waterboard, he better bring his own bucket because he's going to have to do it himself. The agency is not going to do this again.

"HAVE YOU EVER KILLED SOMEONE?"

MICHAEL HAYDEN | DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: When you can stare at a target unblinkingly for hours, if not days, and then use a weapon against that target that has a 14-pound warhead in it and with an accuracy measured in inches this actually makes warfare more precise and that should be a good.

DRONE OPERATOR: Roger. You are now free to engage the vehicle.

ROBERT GATES | DIRECTOR 1991-93: They give you the ability, actually, to minimize civilian casualties or collateral damage.

DRONE OPERATOR: Unintelligible order. Give me 10 seconds. Roger. Direct hits. Right there.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: Now the dark side. The dark side is the ease with which a political decision maker can make the decision to do this.

GEORGE TENET: People need to be careful about being so happy with the use of the term "kill." Intelligence officers in particular have to worry about the use of that term.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN | ACTING DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: There are many times when people are talking loosely about it or enthusing to me about it, and I will say to them, "Have you ever killed someone?"

IT WAS ON GEORGE TENET'S WATCH IN 2001 THAT DRONES, ONCE JUST EYES IN THE SKY, BECAME KILLING MACHINES.

GEORGE TENET | DIRECTOR, CLINTON AND GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATIONS: I had a question, and it is a question that still needs to be asked today as well, "Do you want the civilian head of an intelligence organization firing a weapon outside of the chain of military command?"

GEORGE TENET: I needed to ask the question. They needed to answer the question. We never got the answer to the question. And off we went.

THE CIA'S DRONE WARFARE PROGRAM IS SO SECRET...THE AGENCY DOES NOT EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE THAT IT EXISTS. YET SOME DIRECTORS ARE SURPRISINGLY CANDID.

MICHAEL HAYDEN:It's a covert action. It's an activity designed so that the hand of the United States is hidden.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: It allows you to do it in circumstances, in which it would be more difficult for the military to do.

BUT HAVE DRONES GIVEN PRESIDENTS - AND DIRECTORS - UNCHECKED POWER? THE POWER TO DECIDE WHO LIVES AND WHO DIES?

IMRAN KAHN: Drone attacks violate every human law because no law allows anyone to become judge, jury and executioner.

MAN: Americans are ruthless people. They are against Islam. They are the tyrants.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA TAKES OFFICE, AFTER A CAMPAIGN CRITICAL OF GEORGE BUSH'S WAR ON TERROR. BUT UNDER THE NEW COMMANDER IN CHIEF, DRONE STRIKES RISE DRAMATICALLY.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: National security looks different from the Oval than it does from a hotel room in Iowa.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ | DIRECTOR, COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER 2002-04: This administration-- prefers-- killing-- terrorists rather than holding them captive. And the reason I think is because -- it's hard. It's hard to capture. It's -- it's hard work. And many would consider it dirty business.

JAMES WOOLSEY | DIRECTOR 1993-95: They're killing a lot of people with, let's say, drone strikes that would better be captured and interrogated, that we -- might have a chance of learning what the terrorist group is going to do next. You can't question somebody you've killed.

QUESTION: So in other words, the CIA is just, "we're taking no prisoners?"

JAMES WOOLSEY: I don't know that that's the CIA's position. I think that's the President's position. I, I think he is killing more people than he needs to and we'd be better off capturing some of them and interrogating them.

JOHN BRENNAN | DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: We will do everything possible to see if we can prevent them from being successful, capturing them. And when that's not possible, well, then I think the president should have the ability to take action.

YET SOME WATCHDOG ORGANIZATIONS CLAIM THAT AMERICAN DRONES HAVE KILLED MORE THAN A THOUSAND CIVILIANS - NUMBERS THE U.S. GOVERNMENT SAYS ARE GREATLY EXAGGERATED.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties those deaths will haunt us as long as we live.

THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL TARGET IN THE HISTORY OF DRONE WARFARE IS ABOUT TO ENTER THE CIA'S CROSSHAIRS.

YEMEN

ANWAR AL-AWLAKI VIDEO: To the American people I say, your security will continue to be threatened as long as your government continues with its aggression against the Muslim people.

HE IS ANWAR AL-AWLAKI ... A SWORN ENEMY OF THE UNITED STATES AND AN AMERICAN CITIZEN.

LEON PANETTA: He was born in the U.S. and was someone who was using social media in order to convey a message about jihad and doing it very effectively and was someone who had gone to Yemen there was no question in my mind that he was extremely dangerous and somebody that we had to go after.

ANWAR AL-AWLAKI VIDEO: As you send us your bombs, we will send you ours.

THE CHARISMATIC CLERIC CONSPIRES WITH THE SO-CALLED UNDERWEAR BOMBER IN A FAILED PLOT TO BLOW UP AN AIRLINER OVER DETROIT ON CHRISTMAS DAY 2009. AND HE INSPIRES THE JIHADIST MILITANT WHO KILLS 13 AND INJURES MORE THAN 30 AT A SHOOTING SPREE AT FORT HOOD, TEXAS.

WILLIAM WEBSTER | DIRECTOR, REAGAN AND GEORGE H.W. BUSH ADMINISTRATIONS: I was asking, "what were we interested in al-Awlaki about?" Well, someone said, "Well he's, he's a bad guy. He's on the President's list." So I -- "what list is that?" "Well, the good-bye list."

THE 'GOOD-BYE LIST'...ALSO KNOWN AS THE 'KILL LIST' - IT'S THE GRIM ROSTER OF TERRORISTS TARGETED FOR EXECUTION BY THE U.S GOVERNMENT.

LEON PANETTA: We went through the process to uh make a case for why uh al-Awlaki was dangerous, and uh the Justice department along with the our general counsel and counsel out of the White House felt that a good case had been made to put him on that list.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2011. DAVID PETRAEUS IS NOW IN CHARGE WHEN CIA DRONE PILOTS IN NEVADA DRAW A BEAD ON AL-AWLAKI IN YEMEN. THEY HAVE BEEN WATCHING HIM FOR DAYS.

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS | DIRECTOR 2011-12: I think you always do soul searching when you're putting individuals in harm's way you turn these over in your mind and uh and there are occasions where you say, "Let me mull this one. Let me think on it." But if you ensure that you're within the rules of engagement, um then you press forward and make a decision.

MOMENTS LATER ANWAR AL-AWLAKI IS DEAD.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Awlaki was the leader of external operations for al Qaeda.

NOT SINCE THE CIVIL WAR HAS THE U.S. GOVERNMENT EXECUTED ONE OF ITS CITIZENS - WITHOUT AN INDICTMENT, TRIAL OR SENTENCING.

ROBERT GATES: The precedent of an American president being able to kill an American citizen under any circumstances, on just his signature, is dangerous.

LEON PANETTA: There were Nazis who were U.S. citizens. Does that make them less of an enemy? There are terrorists who are U.S. citizens. Does that somehow make them less of an enemy? I don't think so. In my book, a terrorist is a terrorist.

ROBERT GATES: I would prefer, under those circumstances, that there was some kind of external body where the president would present the evidence to somebody outside of the executive branch to say, "I think this is conclusive. Do you think this is conclusive?

WILLIAM WEBSTER: This was an American citizen and he was ultimately taken out, but it's not something that should be left to one person, no matter who that person is.

ANWAR AL-AWLAKI WAS JUST ONE MAN. BUT THE CIA'S DRONES HAVE KILLED SCORES...PERHAPS HUNDREDS WHOSE NAMES ARE UNKNOWN.

ROBERT GATES: My worry is that there are too many of what we would call signature strikes, which are at a group of suspected terrorists where the evidence may not be that clear, of specifically, what is going on.

QUESTION: What about the so-called signature strikes?

DAVID PETRAEUS:I can't talk about signature strikes. If they are even taken, I don't know what they are.

MICHAEL MORELL | Acting Director, Obama Administration: I'm not talking about those guys. I don't believe these directors are talking about this stuff.

MICHAEL MORELL: I'm not talking about them.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: You have every reason to believe that there are bad guys there at the moment. You don't quite know the name of the bad guy but you know the van, you know the weaponry, you know the size of the group, you know what kind of meetings have been held there before, you know the other vehicle that pulled up and you make a decision.

JANUARY, 2015. CIA DRONES STRIKE A TERRORIST ENCAMPMENT IN PAKISTAN. TO THE AGENCY'S SURPRISE, KILLED, ALONG WITH THE TERRORISTS, ARE TWO HOSTAGES, INCLUDING A 73-YEAR-OLD AMERICAN AID WORKER.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: On the behalf of the United States government I offer our deepest apologies to the families.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: These were signature strikes. The names of the targets were not known.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: ...mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes can occur.

PORTER GOSS | DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: In some cases where people ended up dead, I don't know whether they were collaborators or innocent bystanders. And that's the problem with these kinds of remote button warfare games. I would rather up close and personal.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: This hard. Alright? And anybody who makes these kinds of decisions are going to lose some sleep, but you'd also lose sleep if you failed to make these decisions and bad things happen to Americans.

"TIME AND SPACE"

LEON PANETTA | DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: When people ask you, "What keeps you awake at night? What I worried about a great deal - was the potential for a crippling cyber-attack on this country, which could paralyze our nation.

PORTER GOSS | DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: It is your responsibility to look up at every plane and watch every train and you think, "What could go wrong? What could go wrong?" I need to be thinking about what can go wrong... all the time.

ONGOING THREATS ... UNRELENTING PRESSURE ... THE BURDEN OF PREVENTING THE NEXT TERRORIST ATTACK TAKES A PERSONAL TOLL.

LEON PANETTA: I don't think you can go through that kind of experience, of uh having to make life and death decisions. Having to, every day, read Intelligence about all of the evil that's out there in the world and those that want to strike at us, and uh not have it affect you.

GINA BENNETT | SENIOR COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST 1998-Present: I don't have a husband anymore. I think over the years, I had just become such a robot in my approach to life because that was what was needed on the job. I got all the trains off on time and all that sort of thing with the family. But they don't necessarily see me as having been emotionally present in their lives. That's a hard thing to take.

JOHN DEUTCH | DIRECTOR, CLINTON ADMINISTRATION: You know, I always noticed something... that the wives of CIA directors, the wives are, to a person, of the view that the experience was not good for their husbands.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH | DIRECTOR 1976-77; PRESIDENT; VICE PRESIDENT; U.N. AMBASSADOR: The reason I'm so strong for CIA is I saw their dedicated men and women that work there get no credit. Not out in the open at all. And I just admired their patriotism and their dedication to this country.

THE SPYMASTERS ARE ALL TOO HUMAN...THEIR SUCCESSES OFTEN SECRET - THEIR MISTAKES EXPOSED AND MAGNIFIED.

NEWS REPORTER: The scandal comes at a sensitive time for Petraeus and the CIA. One week...

NEWS REPORTER: David Petraeus is not the first high ranking Washington official to have an affair but he is the first CIA director to resign because of one. The Petraeus indiscretions came to the attention of the FBI...

QUESTION: You were confirmed in the job by a vote of 92 to nothing. Precipitous fall. How tough was that?

DAVID PETRAEUS | DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Precipitous falls are very tough. You know there's a saying in the military, the higher you go up the flagpole the more chance you have to show your backside and, uh, I was well up the flagpole and did just that.

SOME DIRECTORS WORRY THAT THE AGENCY'S MISSION HAS CHANGED...THAT THE CIA, ONCE AN INTELLIGENCE AND ESPIONAGE SERVICE, HAS BECOME TOO FOCUSED ON LETHAL COVERT ACTION.

MICHAEL MORELL | ACTING DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: There's no doubt that CIA today has a much larger paramilitary mission than it ever has, there's no doubt that over the long-term that's not a healthy thing, because the primary job of the Central Intelligence Agency is to collect secrets.

ROBERT GATES | DIRECTOR, GEORGE H.W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: I think there's too much of a tendency to get so caught up in the scintillating covert world, that we forget that it's on the analytical side and the espionage side that CIA actually - earns its money I mean, just think about the past decade or more had we not gone to war in Iraq, what the world would look like. So - and that's an analytical failure.

GEORGE TENET | DIRECTOR, CLINTON AND GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: There's been a transformation of sorts in the Middle East. Because the Arab Spring, while it has regressed unleashed a series of forces that basically said, "We want a better way of life. We want a functioning civil society." So, in part, the message has to be to Islam itself is you have to create vibrant civil societies that work, that create educational opportunities. But this is something they have to do for themselves.

MICHAEL MORELL: Dealing with this radicalization that's taking place among these young men and young women, is the bigger problem and until we get our arms around that, this war is not going away.

MICHAEL HAYDEN | DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: Look, let's be very candid. This is about Islam. Now I'm not criticizing one of the world's great monotheisms. It's not about the Quran. It's not about the prophet. But it is about the way it is being misused.

LEON PANETTA: My view of this frankly is that, this is not so much religion as just evil and I mean people, people who do evil things they may excuse what they do, based on Jihad based on the power of the church. But deep down, these are people who are evil.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN | ACTING DIRECTOR GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: The harsh truth is, terrorism is, right now, worse than it's ever been. It's the largest safe haven they've had in more than a decade with money, access, narrative, and territory. For now, I would say the ISIS objective is to consolidate their position in this so-called caliphate. But unless they are stamped out, they'll come here. They'll come here.

NOVEMBER 13, 2015 | PARIS, FRANCE

JOHN BRENNAN: Our sensibilities and our souls have been jarred once again by the horrific and wanton violence perpetrated upon the innocent in the streets, of the beautiful city of Paris.

AND JUST WEEKS LATER -- DECEMBER 2, 2015 IN SAN BERNARDINO -- ISIS-INSPIRED KILLERS BRING TERROR STRAIGHT TO THE HEART OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.

NEXT -- MARCH 22, 2016 - CAME BRUSSELS, BELGIUM.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: To say we're not in their gun sights, reminds me a little bit too much of pre-9/11, where frankly the CIA encountered, and much of the world, what I would call a climate of disbelief.

JOHN BRENNAN | DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: I do not believe that the -- the remedy to terrorism is using the pointy end of the spear-- kicking down the doors, taking action against the terrorist organizations.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: This is not an issue we can kill our way out of.

MICHAEL MORELL: You cannot kill your way out of this.

JOHN DEUTCH: You cannot kill your way out.

GEORGE TENET: You can't kill your way out of this. That's a mistake. It's much more complicated.

WILLIAM WEBSTER: Now we can live in a world where we all try to see who could be the toughest, the meanest and so forth... but it isn't going to be the kind of world that we believe we want for our children and for their children.

GINA BENNETT: I may be a bit of a heretic because I don't really see terrorists or terrorism as a threat to U.S. national security. ...To me, our nation's security is only threatened by us. If we choose to change course and become something that we're not.

TO PUT THE THREAT IN PERSPECTIVE HOME GROWN TERRORISTS, INSPIRED BY JIHAD, HAVE KILLED 45 AMERICANS ON U.S. SOIL SINCE 9/11.

MICHAEL MORELL: So if you look back at the fight against al Qaeda and ISIS. Our great victory has been the degradation, decimation, near-defeat of that al Qaeda core that brought that tragedy to our shores on 9/11. Their great victory has been the spread of their ideology across a huge geographic area. That's been their great victory.

JOHN BRENNAN: I fear and I realize that we're not going to see an end to terrorism in my lifetime.

JOHN BRENNAN: We're just going to have to continue to do our jobs every day to minimize to the greatest extent possible the ability of these individuals to successfully carry out these terrorist acts.

JOHN BRENNAN: That's what intelligence is really trying to do. We're trying to give time and space to policy makers, to our diplomats, to our negotiators to resolve some of these outstanding issues and tensions that exist in the world.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: The reality is, that intelligence or direct action only buys you space. It rarely solves the problem on its own and if political leaders don't have the wherewithal or the courage or whatever it takes to use the space, you get into this loop, where you get to kill people forever.