A former CIA officer who questioned a key al-Qaida operative in 2002 says he now condemns the harsh interrogation techniques which he once saw as "desperate measures" called for by "desperate times."
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou was a member of the team that captured and questioned al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in 2002. The interrogation is one of two CIA interrogations at the heart of the current controversy surrounding destroyed videotapes.
Kiriakou questioned Zubaydah and learned the waterboarding technique had been used on him. (Though Kiriakou did not witness it.) At the time, Kiriakou believed the practice was acceptable, but he has recently stated publicly that he believes waterboarding is wrong.
"In 2002, I believed that desperate times called for desperate measures. And we were so convinced that al-Qaida was planning another massive attack that we really felt that we needed to do anything to get the information to disrupt it," Kiriakou tells Robert Siegel.
"In the meantime, we've had five years to develop new sources of information, to improve relations with other countries who could provide us additional information. And I've come to the belief that not only is it unnecessary, but that as Americans, we're better than that and we shouldn't be engaging in a practice like waterboarding."
Kiriakou says that the decision in Zubaydah's case to use waterboarding — or controlled drowning — came after three to four weeks of questioning during which Zubaydah was uncooperative. The ex-CIA officer also notes that the action required approval from the CIA's deputy director of operations.
Despite his opinion now that waterboarding is torture, Kiriakou says he believes that Zubaydah would have continued to refuse to talk if the technique hadn't been used. He also says he believes American lives were saved as a result of the information the CIA learned through the interrogation.
Kiriakou describes the process of waterboarding, his own experience being waterboarded and how it took only 35 seconds once the technique was employed for Zubaydah to start talking.