Is the CIA Interrogation Probe Hurting Morale?

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 31, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: Continuing now with our lead story tonight. Even some Democrats say they aren't happy with the way the attorney general is handling the CIA investigation.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN D - CALIF.: Candidly, I wish that the attorney general had waited. Every day, something kind of dribbles out into the public arena. Very often, it has mistakes. Very often, it's half a story. And I think we need to get the whole story together and tell it in an appropriate way.


INGRAHAM: Meanwhile, a valid liberal Helen Thomas grilled Robert Gibbs today over what's going to happen to detainees.


HELEN THOMAS: Detainees in that sense other places?

GIBBS: Detainees are not sent to other places to be tortured. That's the policy of this country.

THOMAS: To be interrogated?

GIBBS: Well, some may go to other countries to face charges that they have in those countries. But they're not shipped in the dark of night to be tortured.


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INGRAHAM: With us now, Dr. Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit and the author of the great book "Marching Towards Hell: America and Islam after Iraq."

Dr. Scheuer, I just want your take on where we are right now with what the attorney general says he's going to do order ordering this full- fledged investigation, what the president has said in the past about moving forward, not backward, and now this?

MICHAEL SCHEUER, PH.D., FORMER CIA ANALYST: I think what they've done is two things. The administration clearly has declared war, not only on the CIA, but their entire intelligence community. And it's going to have a freezing effect, an effect where people work to the letter of their instructions and no more.

The second thing they've done is probably more damaging. And that is inform al Qaeda and its allies not only of all the things that are in our arsenal of to do -- to do to them if we get them, but also the fact that we're not going to do it anymore. And for better or worse, the CIA has been al Qaeda's most damaging enemy since 1996. And what the president has done is what his party has always done, kind of unilateral disarmament. This is reminiscent of the Cold War when they wanted to get rid of our nuclear weapons, thinking that that would encourage the Soviets to do so.

INGRAHAM: And isn't it also going right to the heart of this idea that the left has never liked the CIA? I mean the CIA represents all things that is bad about the united States of America. Is it not? I mean, this is a long-running left-wing dispute with the way things are done in Washington.

SCHEUER: Sure it is. I've always said that if the country survives my generation, we're going to be in very good shape, because most of the people I grew up with share Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder's attitude of hatred toward the Central Intelligence Agency. And that's what we're seeing here. We're seeing the 60's adolescents kind of work out their hatreds now that they have power.

INGRAHAM: I love this. You're doing the psychological profile.


You are a doctor after all. Can't we just make him a medical doctor?

Now Holder says that he has no choice but to proceed with this investigation because the ethics office at the Justice Department, you know, came forward with this information.

First of all, I don't think that is necessarily the case.

Number two, when the president himself reassured the CIA early this year that, you know, targets weren't on their backs, you know, keep up the morale, you know, we're in your corner, we're going to move forward, not backward, this has to have been signed off. Would it not have been by the president himself?

SCHEUER: If it's not, we have a minor official -- cabinet official running the United States government. Of course, the president signed off on this. This is just politics. And it's not only on their side of the aisle. Both parties are playing politics on this issue.

INGRAHAM: Now Juan Williams in a previous segment, he and I got into it about whether in fact we learned some really valuable things after the waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed. We should remind people how many people were waterboarded in this entire process?

SCHEUER: Less than half a dozen, I think.

INGRAHAM: Yeah, so just a handful of people were waterboarded.


INGRAHAM: He was waterboarded many, many times. He provided information, according to the most recent reports in "The Washington Post" and other places, that was extremely useful. A lot of it was bloviation. But a lot of it went to the ideology, operational structure, and even some agents of al Qaeda were named by him over the course of many months.

SCHEUER: Yes. Once you get them talking, if you can engage them on Islamic history and their place in it, they often say more than you think they're going to say, or they think they're going to say.

So Khalid Sheik Mohammed and many of them have been not only manipulated in terms of interrogation techniques, but in terms of conversation and debate. And that's what the recent reporting is showing. They're leading us into how al Qaeda thinks and how it's allies think.

INGRAHAM: He was an effective resister before the waterboarding.


INGRAHAM: And again, you can never know if other techniques also would have worked with him. But you can make an educated guess that this was the most hardened of the terrorists we were interrogating. And he wasn't the garden variety, you know, stooge for al Qaeda. He was charge of planning. He was a mastermind. And it was outline on the line for him.

SCHEUER: And people, Laura, never talk about the fact that al Qaeda guys are trained to resist interrogation.

INGRAHAM: Yeah, their manual that we found in ... where was it?


INGRAHAM: The British found manual ...

SCHEUER: They believe they can die in the battlefield and go to Allah.


SCHEUER: Or can die in our prisons. And they're very good and trained at resistance.

INGRAHAM: Now before we let you know, the interagency task force that has been now tasked by the special committee of the Obama administration to come up with these new, you know, interrogation methods, does this give you much confidence? It's obviously taken away from CIA. And there are a variety of officials that are going to be involved now.

SCHEUER: No, it doesn't. What it does is is, you know, I ran the program. I founded the program over in (INAUDIBLE). And we were the most oversaw -- overseen organization in the government. There was a lot of examination. This is now in the White House. No one examines the White House but the White House.

INGRAHAM: No one seems to know. It's like who's on first? I mean, we don't know who is in charge.

SCHEUER: This is great accretion of power to the president.

INGRAHAM: Right. So you can argue that the executive branch is getting more powerful and the intelligence agency is obviously being sapped of their power.

SCHEUER: Absolutely. The intelligence committees are not going to come into the White House, Laura.

INGRAHAM: Dr. Scheuer, great to see you as always.

SCHEUER: Thank you.

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