A retired CIA agent who led the team that interrogated a key Al Qaeda operative early in the war on terror told ABC News that a technique commonly known as waterboarding was torture, but necessary.
According to the ABC News report, John Kiriakou, the CIA officer whose team captured Al Qaeda Chief Abu Zubaydah, said his team subjected Zubaydah to waterboarding, and that the technique "broke" the terror leader in "less than 35 seconds."
In the report, set to air Monday on ABC's "World News With Charles Gibson" and "Nightline," Kiriakou said he believes waterboarding is torture, but said the need for intelligence that would help prevent future attacks justified the technique.
"The threat information he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks," Kiriakou said of the information Zubaydah provided.
"What happens if we don't waterboard a person, and we don't get that nugget of information, and there's an attack," Kiriakou said. "I would have trouble forgiving myself."
The CIA secretly recorded the interrogation of Zubaydah, then destroyed the tapes. Kiriakou told ABC he had no idea that the CIA was taping the session, or that the tape had been destroyed.
In response to Kiriakou's statements, the CIA issues a statement to ABC, stating in part,
"the United States does not conduct or condone torture. The CIA's terrorist interrogation effort has always been small, carefully run, lawful and highly productive."