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Ex-CIA official on interrogation methods: Bottom line, we saved lives

Former director of CIA Clandestine Service Jose Rodriguez joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss the enhanced interrogation program
Former director of CIA Clandestine Service Jo... 05:48

In light of the controversial Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques, former CIA Clandestine Service chief Jose Rodriguez defended the methods, saying they were "necessary."

"At the time of 9/11, we had general information that an attack was coming, but we didn't know when, where, how," Rodriguez said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning." "And the reason was because the informants, the agents that we had, were on the periphery of the leadership, so we really did not have any inside information."

Once they captured senior al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, they realized he could provide key information about an upcoming second wave of attacks.

The ex-CIA head told 60 Minutes that the CIA ... 26:28

Rodriguez said in the spring of 2002, Zubaydah had been severely wounded during capture. When the CIA interrogated him in the company of the FBI, Rodriguez said "he gave up a couple of pieces of important information but after he regained his strength, he stopped talking."

According to the Senate report, Zubaydah provided information on al Qaeda's "activities, plans, capabilities, and relationships, in addition to information on its leadership structure, including personalities, decision-making processes, training, and tactics" before the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, but he failed to provide information about the next attack on the U.S.

That's when the CIA decided to implement the enhanced interrogation program on Zubaydah for 20 days in August 2002, Rodriguez said. Afterwards, he asserted they were able to "systematically take down the al Qaeda organization" that attacked the U.S. on 9/11.

"We knew we needed the information. We needed to find a new way to do this and the rest is history," Rodriguez said.

However, the Senate report said "Abu Zubaydah never provided this information, and CIA officers later concluded this was information Abu Zubaydah did not possess."

"We got information that added to our base information," Rodriguez said. "We were able to capture and kill the entire al Qaeda leadership that attacked us on 9/11. We were able to protect the homeland. We were able to save lives, and that is the bottom line."

As for the interrogation tapes Rodriguez ordered to have destroyed, Rodriguez said he did it to protect the identity of the officers who worked for him and "whose faces were all over those tapes."

"I knew the tapes would leak someday, and I feared retribution from al Qaeda for my people," Rodriguez said.

He said he also feared that once the tapes were leaked, the mainstream media "wouldn't make a distinction between Abu Ghraib, that involved illegal activity, and the program that I led that was approved, that was certified as legal, that was briefed to the Congress."

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