Ex-CIA official defends enhanced interrogation: 'We were very concerned' of new attacks after 9/11

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 30, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: One year after the raid that killed Usama bin Laden, a former high-ranking CIA official is speaking out and arguing that the harsh interrogation techniques that were employed by the Bush administration played a larger role in providing the intelligence road map that eventually led to the terrorist compound.


HANNITY: Jose Rodriguez Jr. spent 31 years in the CIA's Clandestine Service.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: A plane has crash into the upper floor of the World Trade Center.

HANNITY: Now, after the 9/11 attacks, he led the agency's counterterrorism center.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, JR., FORMER CIA DIR. OF CLANDESTINE SERVICE: We targeted the Al Qaeda structure. We took to the enemy with determination and we focused.

HANNITY: In the new book, "Hard Measures," Rodriguez defends the enhanced interrogation techniques like water boarding used after 9/11 on some of Al Qaeda's top leadership. The poster boy for enhanced interrogation techniques was Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, who was captured in Pakistan after a shoot out.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, 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 led to the capture of Bin al-Shibh and together these two terrorist provided information that captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

BRIG. GENERAL THOMAS HARTMANN, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE LEGAL ADVISER, FEB. 11, 2008: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

HANNITY: Only three of the terror leaders were ever waterboarded, a technique seen here in a demonstration. But Rodriguez says, the interrogation led to the interruption of ten large scale plots and the capture of many more terrorists.

GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Honest men can differ after whether or not they are comfortable with some of the techniques we used and that is a fair debate, but you don't get to say that the techniques didn't work.

HANNITY: But some did say that they didn't work, including then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who claims not to know that it was happening at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN, MAY 14, 2009: You're accusing the CIA of lying to you in September of 2002.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States. Misleading the Congress of United States.

HANNITY: Yet Rodriguez himself led a delegation to Capitol Hill to brief Congressional leaders including Pelosi.

PELOSI: The only mention of water boarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed.

HANNITY: And she seemed to backtrack when document show that her aide Michael Sheehy had been briefed specifically about the waterboarding.

PELOSI: He informed that that briefing had taken place.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Mr. Sheehy did not tell you, that he was informed that they were actually using the techniques.

PELOSI: No, he did say it. He said that the techniques were now being used.

HANNITY: Controversy erupted again in 2007 when it was revealed that Rodriguez ordered the destruction of videotapes that showed Abu Zubaydah's waterboarding.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, DEC. 7, 2007: I spoke to the President this morning about this. He has no recollection of being made aware of the tapes or their destruction before yesterday.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, D-ILL., ASSISTANT MAJORITY LEADER, DEC. 7, 2007: Today, I'll be calling for an official investigation of whether there was destruction of evidence, and an obstruction of justice, in the destruction of these video tapes.

HANNITY: The Bush Justice Department had written extensive memos detailing what was allowed under the enhanced interrogations and why it was legal. Now after a lawsuit by the ACLU, those memos were released by the Obama administration.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, APRIL 21, 2009: The OLC memos that were released reflected in my view, us losing our moral bearings.

HANNITY: Rodriguez and the CIA were eventually cleared of wrongdoing and the investigations were ended.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: These men deserve to be decorated. They don't deserve to be prosecuted.


HANNITY: Joining us now is a man at the center of this controversy, Jose Rodriguez, Jr., former CIA -- the director of the CIA's National Clandestine Service and the author of "Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives."

Sir, great to see you. It's a great honor to have you here. Thank you for being with us.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you for inviting me, Sean. I'm a big fan.

HANNITY: Well, I appreciate it. I have read the book cover to cover. We can't get this all in, I'm going to try to get in as much as I can. Let's start with the tape that we just set up. You personally briefed Nancy Pelosi about enhanced interrogation.

RODRIGUEZ: I did. We briefed her before September 2002 about the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, so we went through the techniques that were used on him including waterboarding.

HANNITY: And what she said to the American people at the time, she lied.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes. She is either confused or is lying.

HANNITY: OK. Let's go to the mindset. And you went into great specificity and detail. You thought that you were flooded with intelligence of an imminent attack, anthrax, potential nuclear. Explain the mindset after 9/11.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes. We were very concerned about a second wave of attacks in May, 2002. We had a flood of intelligence coming in about threats. We had the Al Qaeda, the anthrax scare of a few months before. We were very concerned that we were going to get hit again. We had confirmed intelligence on anthrax and we knew about the Al Qaeda nuclear program. And we could hear the time bomb, we couldn't see it but we could hear it ticking.

HANNITY: Yes. And so, you felt another attack on this country was imminent and you needed as quickly as possible the intelligence to save American lives?

RODRIGUEZ: Correct. And we had captured Abu Zubaydah a few months earlier. And Abu Zubaydah was the highest level of Al Qaeda terrorist that we had ever captured.

HANNITY: And you thought he was going to die?

RODRIGUEZ: He was severely wounded by the Pakistanis when he was being captured, so he was near death. We actually brought in the best surgeons that we could find and saved his life.

HANNITY: And then, this is where enhanced interrogation -- one thing I took issue, I watch the segment on "60 Minutes" last night and you said, "We are the dark side."


HANNITY: And I took a little issue with that. Even though, maybe you refer to that. Meaning, you were on the front lines of extracting information under the circumstances post-9/11 to save lives. Why do you call that the dark side?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, we are in the shadows. And we do what nobody else in the U.S. government does. I mean, the FBI does its thing. The military does its thing. We get extraordinary authorities to go beyond. And we have very special authorities to do covert action, for example. So, we operate in the shadows. And that is what I meant by that.

HANNITY: All right. But everything you did including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, food deprivation. Why don't you walk us through? What did you do to Abu Zubaydah and then Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? Tell us what you did.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes. Well, there are 10 techniques, they were approved by DOJ in August of 2002. And I say in the book, "Hard Measures," that actually they were pretty wimpy if you really -- if the American people actually knew what these techniques where, they would say, what are you talking about? Because for example, the first one is the attention grasp, you grab somebody and bring him close to you and look at him straight in the eye, you know, to let him know there is a new sheriff in town and to, you know.

HANNITY: And slap him.

RODRIGUEZ: Well, that is number three. The insult slap. You know, it's a slap. You know, it's not torture. And it's within open hand so it's not to hurt him. But people take offense to that. You know, it gets their attention.

HANNITY: They are naked?

RODRIGUEZ: They are, in most cases they are naked. Yes, vulnerable.

HANNITY: Sleep deprivation?

RODRIGUEZ: There is sleep deprivation. Yes.

HANNITY: Food deprivation?

RODRIGUEZ: There is caloric reduction intake, you know, food manipulation.

HANNITY: All right. What else?

RODRIGUEZ: There is the facial hold, you grab it by the face and you again make them look at you. So, those are the conditioning ones. And then there is a couple stress techniques where you sit on the floor and you put your hands above your head and it causes muscle fatigue. There is --

HANNITY: To make them as uncomfortable and miserable as possible so you can get information?


HANNITY: OK. And we're going to get into what we call waterboarding next but it's also done under supervision, very strict guidelines and you only did it three people.


HANNITY: Abu-Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

RODRIGUEZ: Right. And Rashim Nashiri who was the person responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole.


HANNITY: We continue now with Jose Rodriguez, Jr., former director of the CIA's National Clandestine Service and author of the new book, "Hard Measures." All right. So, you talk about, you put some guys in diapers, they were nude, sleep deprivation, loud music, food deprivation, but everyone talks about enhanced interrogation, they think waterboarding. You did it to three people.


HANNITY: All right. Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, explain what happened.

RODRIGUEZ: The first thing is Abu Zubaydah and he is a very tough individual. And he gave us early some information and then he stopped talking. And we were dead in the water in May of 2002. And we were very concerned about a second wave of attacks. We had to come up with something new. So, I asked a psychologist expert that we had on a military training program that trains U.S. servicemen sent to prison in case they are taken prisoner, how to assist. So, we asked him to do a set of alternative techniques that would do a number of things. But primarily to let them know that they're fate was in our hands. And they had absolutely no control of their situation.

HANNITY: So, what you do is put them sideways, you've cover their mouth and their nose, pour water on them. You can only do it for what?

RODRIGUEZ: Forty seconds is the max but it usually lasted about average of 10 seconds.

HANNITY: All right. Now, President Obama has called this torture. He wanted to close Gitmo and he ran on the idea of ending rendition, black sites. Here's what he himself said, I want to get your reaction.



OBAMA, MAY 21, 2009: I ban the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by the United States of America.

I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more.

OBAMA, JAN. 2010: Make no mistake we will close Guantanamo prison which is damage our National Security interest and became a tremendous recruiting tool for Al Qaeda.

OBAMA, APRIL 29, 2009: I strongly believe that the steps we've taken to prevent these kinds of enhanced interrogation techniques, will make us stronger over the long term.


HANNITY: All right. The president is now taking credit for getting bin Laden. If he had his way of closing Gitmo, ending enhanced interrogations, which, calling people like yourself torturers, would we have gotten bin Laden?

RODRIGUEZ: We got a lot of information from the detainees that eventually led us to bin Laden.

HANNITY: And that's a fact.

RODRIGUEZ: And that's a fact.

HANNITY: You were there, and you know, and you saw, you watched this unfold.

RODRIGUEZ: What concerns me is that there is still doubt out there. People are doubting, you know, the amount of information that we got from these programs that gave us the basis to go after Al Qaeda and destroy Al- Qaeda, the Al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11, is just amazing and yet, you know...

HANNITY: So, you don't think we would have gotten bin Laden without the techniques leading to intelligence?

RODRIGUEZ: The reason why is because there is a clear trail. There was someone that we captured, a facilitator that we captured in 2004 that told us about bin Laden's courier and gave us a pseudo name, Akhmeid Al-Kuwaiti.

HANNITY: And that was what led to bin Laden in Pakistan.

RODRIGUEZ: And eventually we got the true name of Al-Kuwaiti.

HANNITY: So the president is really not -- look, I give the president credit for making the decision to get bin Laden. I give SEAL Team 6 all the credit and all the people in the intelligence, but without these techniques, the things he opposed wouldn't have allowed him to make that decision. Is that a fair statement?

RODRIGUEZ: That is a fair statement.

HANNITY: All right, let me ask you this, what do you say when you are called a torturer? What does that mean to you considering you're trying to save American lives?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, I say in the book that I was disgusted and my colleagues were disgusted that after we stepped up to the plate to do what we had to do after 9/11. We answered the call. We had our president basically called us torturers.

HANNITY: There was a controversy about the water boarding of Al-Zubaydah. Those were taped. At one point, you made the decision. You felt you were given two opportunities where they told you, you could destroy them and use a shredder and you did. But people said it was a cover up and compared it to Watergate. What's your reaction to that?

RODRIGUEZ: There were 92 tapes and the tapes were done actually to prove to the world that we were actually taking care of Al-Zubaydah. We were concerned that he was going to die. Again, we realized that the tapes actually had the faces of our interrogators and they were a security problem.

If the tapes were to leak, the security of my people was going to be compromised. So they asked us if we can destroy these tapes and that started a three-year ordeal.

HANNITY: You had a lawyer and you had to defend yourself.

RODRIGUEZ: It was three-year ordeal was until I finally made the decision --

HANNITY: You made the call --

RODRIGUEZ: To go ahead and destroy. Two years later that story leaked and there was an investigation and there was a special prosecutor assigned to investigate. It was three-year investigation.

HANNITY: You think that all of the people that were working on behalf of the safety of Americans had those tapes -- it's like an arrest, wouldn't have looked pretty, but you think their lives would have been in jeopardy?

RODRIGUEZ: I really do.

HANNITY: One last question, you saw the waterboarding of the Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammad and you said Mohammad in particular was a very evil, cold individual --

RODRIGUEZ: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was even more of an evil, cold murderer. He is the person who cut the throat of Danny Pearl, the reporter on tape. He was just pure evil. He was looking for different ways of coming after us. He was the guy who back in 1995 came up with the Bojinka plot to blow up airplanes in mid-air. He followed up in 9/11. He was the toughest, toughest detainee.

HANNITY: One last question. If we abandon these policies, are Americans less safe now?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, these tools saved us, saved lives. I am convinced that it saved lives and allowed us to stop plots against us. It allowed us to go after all these terrorists. We don't capture anybody anymore. So we don't get the intelligence anymore.

HANNITY: Mistake?

RODRIGUEZ: It's a mistake. Even if we captured, we no longer of have the discretion that we used to. Now, we are bound by the Army field manual, which restricts any of this.

HANNITY: Well, thank you for what you did for the country's safety. I know you will have your critics forever, but I agree with you. I believe it kept the country safe.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you very much.

HANNITY: The book is a fascinating revelation, I really enjoyed it. Thank you very much.

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