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Unprecedented Look at Enhanced Interrogation

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 22, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Former Bush speechwriter Mark Thiessen has made headlines early this week when he clashed with CNN's Christiane Amanpour about the Bush administration's enhanced interrogation policies. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you support torture? I know you don't call it —

MARC THIESSEN, "COURTING DISASTER" AUTHOR: It's not torture.

AMANPOUR: I know you don't call it torture.

THIESSEN: It isn't torture.

AMANPOUR: But the extreme pain. The enhanced interrogation —

THIESSEN: There's no extreme pain. The technique, there have been so many misstatements told about the enhanced interrogation techniques comparing them to the Spanish inquisitions that came to our root. And I have to tell you Christiane, you are one of the people who have spread these mistruths.

AMANPOUR: Excuse me?

THIESSEN: We did not submerged people in a box full of water.

AMANPOUR: Excuse me —

THIESSEN: S-21. S-21.

AMANPOUR: That is called waterboarding.

THIESSEN: No, it is not.

AMANPOUR: You can say in which ever way you want.

(CROSSTALK)

THIESSEN: Christiane —

AMANPOUR: Phillipe? Phillipe?

THIESSEN: You are absolutely wrong. I'm sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: … the genocidal regime.

(CROSSTALK)

THIESSEN: Fourteen thousand people killed in S-21. Seven survivors.

AMANPOUR: Excuse me, you are trying to obfuscate the debate here.

THIESSEN: I'm not.

AMANPOUR: That prison was full of images of water torture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: Wow, checkmate. Now, I'm glad that nobody at that network is toeing a partisan line. But what exactly did the CIA do and did it strengthen your security?

Now, we took a look at the issue ourselves as well as how things have changed under President Obama followed by reaction from Marc Thiessen himself. Let's take a look.

• Watch the video

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I strongly believe the steps that we've taken to prevent these kinds of enhanced interrogation techniques will make us stronger over the long term and make us safer over the long term.

HANNITY (voiceover): That was President Obama 100 days after he took office defending his decision to dismantle some of the CIA interrogation techniques used on suspected terrorists. Now, in April, President Obama along with his Attorney General Eric Holder went further by declassifying CIA interrogation documents, including sensitive details about the program. But his decision to publicize guarded intelligence involving terrorists has made many in the intelligence community question if it has aided our enemy and made America more vulnerable to another terrorist attack. That is the premise of the new book, "Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack."

The book's author Marc Thiessen asserts that the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques were directly responsible for foiling multiple terror attacks after 9/11. Now, Thiessen was President Bush's head speechwriter and was given unprecedented access to some of the most sensitive intelligence our government possessed on Al Qaeda interrogations. He challenges the notion that waterboarding constitutes torture as well as many other CIA tactics.

Now, according to Thiessen, the operatives were trained to provide outdated information and drag out interrogations so that their comrades could carry out more attacks. But, after the advanced interrogation techniques were used they gave valuable information that led to the captures of many key operatives. The poster boy for enhanced interrogation techniques was Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, who was captured in Pakistan after a shootout.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, SEPT. 6, 2006: Zubaydah was questioned using these procedures and soon he began to provide information on key Al Qaeda operatives. Zubaydah identified Ramzi Bin al-Shibh. The information Zubaydah provided helped lead to the capture of Bin al-Shibh and together these two terrorists provided information that captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

HANNITY: And according to courting disaster, it is the dismantled interrogation techniques that insured that those terrorists are no longer walking free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Marc Thiessen now joins us. How are you? Good to see you.

THIESSEN: Thanks for having me on.

HANNITY: Thanks for being here. You know, you start out the book with this editor's note, you should not be reading this book, I should not have been able to write it. That's an interesting way to start a book.

THIESSEN: Well, it's the Obama administration has released all of this information about how we interrogate captured terrorists. And the secrets behind how the United States stopped the next 9/11. And they should have remained secrets. But they released all these information. And Obama is gone and said that we committed torture and we did nothing of the sort. And so, if they're going to release this information, I'm going to use it to defend the CIA interrogators —

HANNITY: Well, I'm glad you are, you know, the idea for example, we have an underwear bomber that has information and wanted to kill 300 Americans, and we don't interrogate the guy and we let him lawyer-up is madness to me. I mean, let's go through a little of this. And tell the story about how, you know, you were asked to write the speech for the president on this?

THIESSEN: Sure. Well, in 2006, the program was basically had been stopped by a combination of the Supreme Court and the efforts of liberals in Congress — enhanced interrogation.

HANNITY: Right.

THIESSEN: And so, I was asked by President Bush to write a speech revealing this program. And in the course of writing that speech, I got to know the interrogators. I sat down in the room with the people who are actually with the real Jack Bauers, the one who actually interrogated these people. And they told me, they walked me through how they stop terrorist attacks. How they interrogated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, how they got him to tell us his plans for follow on attacks after 9/11.

HANNITY: Tell us. Now, you can now tell us —

THIESSEN: Sure.

HANNITY: —what'd they do?

THIESSEN: Well, there were two, if we think back the period right after 9/11 there were two terror networks. We didn't know, first of all, we didn't know who KSM was when we were hit. We didn't know who he was that he was behind this all.

HANNITY: It's only because of enhanced interrogation that we found out who he was.

THIESSEN: That's exactly right. And so, we started and there were two terror networks out there planning to attack us. We now know from this intelligence staff. One was KSM's network which is behind 9/11 and the other one was the Hambali network which is South East Asian terrorists that he had tasked to hijack a plane and fly it into the library tower in Los Angeles. And as a result of interrogating, I told the story in the book of how we captured first Abu Zubaydah, then KSM and then slowly rolled up these two networks — more than two dozen people — and stopped them from committing attacks to fly a plane in the Library Tower, to blow up our consulate in Karachi, to blow up our Marine camp in Djibouti. To fly an airplane — to do 9/11 in London. Fly planes in London's financial district at Heathrow Airport. And so, all of these things were stopped. Now, fast forward to 2009, a new terror network — this could be the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

HANNITY: Right.

THIESSEN: By the Obama administration's admission, we know nothing about them, we didn't even know they were planning attacks in the United States. Why? Because we are not capturing terrorists and interrogating them any more.

HANNITY: Yes.

THIESSEN: So, we are blind because we've taken away the most important tool of intelligence we have.

HANNITY: So, the net result will be that they are going to be successful. It's not the logical conclusion.

THIESSEN: We are courting disaster. We're in danger because we do not have this capability. You know, I will explain why it's important, OK. I interviewed Michael Hayden, the former CIA Director. Now, he said was, intelligence is like putting together a puzzle without being able to see the cover of the box. You've got all these pieces, you got signals intelligence, the e-mail intercepted some kind, and the only people who know what the picture looks like are the senior terrorists like KSM. So, when you interrogate them, they tell you what the picture on the cover of the books look like.

HANNITY: Hayden and a number of former CIA directors, they've all said the same thing — you tell me if they are wrong — that we accumulated more intelligence from enhanced interrogation than all of our intelligence agencies combined, that's true?

THIESSEN: That's 100 percent true. Through 2006, since the 9/11 attacks half of what we knew about Al Qaeda and their plans came from CIA interrogations.

HANNITY: Yes.

THIESSEN: They have identified voices and phone calls which we didn't know who they were. They uncoded terrorist communications for us. They told us how from the inside how Al Qaeda operates and what their plans are. They gave us the picture on the cover of the box. We don't have the picture on the cover of the box anymore and that's why we are in danger.

HANNITY: Is that why we've prevented attacks all these years?

THIESSEN: It's exactly why. Because, we question these terrorists, you can intercept the phone call but you can't know the voices on the phone call.

HANNITY: What do you say to the critics that always say, that if you are using enhanced interrogation people will say anything to make it stop, to make it go away, but you obviously have to cross check what they are saying with what others are saying and then you have the ability to confront them again.

THIESSEN: That's exactly right.

HANNITY: Then eventually they do want to stop, so, the only way it is going to stop is that they tell the truth.

THIESSEN: One of the things that is actually, one of the biggest myths told about this program, we actually didn't use enhanced interrogation techniques to get intelligence. We used enhanced interrogation techniques to get them to cooperate. KSM started out being defiant then we waterboarded him then he was compliant. And they asked him during the enhanced interrogation technique, answers to questions they knew the answers to, to gauge whether he was now changed his mind and was going to cooperate and then the techniques stopped. The techniques lasted a couple of days.

HANNITY: I think it is hard for people to understand evil.

THIESSEN: Yes.

HANNITY: And you are describing pure unadulterated evil in this book.

THIESSEN: There is a story, of one of the interrogators who was at late at night was talking to — Garner (ph) was a guy who did entire investigation on this program. And this guy said, that he had — he was with KSM late one night and KSM just said to him, you know, if I ever get out of this hole I'm going to slit your throat and kill your family and smiled while he said it. And this guy said, you know, my job is hard, and it's tough sometimes facing this guys, but every time I get down, I just think of that couple, those two people who stood at the ledge of the World Trade Center and just held their hands and went off into space and I go back to my work. These people are heroes, they are not torturers, they're heroes who stopped the next 9/11, and they are vilified.

HANNITY: What do you think about the fact that there are people in this country that would like to try them?

THIESSEN: It's incredible, this is the most successful and important intelligence program probably in the history of the CIA. And these people, you know —

HANNITY: Where is Leon Panetta, why isn't he defending his own agency?

THIESSEN: He's trying to but it's within ...

HANNITY: He's not trying hard enough.

THIESSEN: He's doing his best, he's up against Eric Holder and he's up against a lot of people who are out to get —

HANNITY: If he can't do his job, he needs to quit and resign and tell the country why he can't do a job.

THIESSEN: I wish he would but the problem is whoever would come after him would probably be worse.

HANNITY: All right. Great . Incredible inside what actually goes on. I appreciate you being with us.

THIESSEN: Thank you for having me. Thanks.

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