Most of the information in a July intelligence report on the terrorist threat to America came from the U.S. government's much-criticized program of detaining and interrogating prisoners, CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden said Friday in defending the policy.

The CIA has detained fewer than 100 people at secret facilities abroad since the capture of Abu Zubaydah in 2002, Hayden told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City, according to an advance copy of his speech.

He staunchly defended the program, saying even fewer prisoners have been rendered to or from foreign governments.

The CIA director said 70 percent of the information contained in the National Intelligence Estimate on the terrorist threat, which was released in July, came from the interrogation of detainees.

Hayden said claims by the European Parliament that at least 1,245 CIA flights transited European airspace or airports are misleading because they implied that most of those flights were rendition flights.

"The actual number of rendition flights ever flown by CIA is a tiny fraction of that. And the suggestion that even a substantial number of those 1,245 flights were carrying detainees is absurd on its face," he said.

Hayden said many flights carried equipment, documents and people, including himself, and had nothing to do with the extraordinary rendition program.