Former CIA Director Michael Hayden on Wednesday defended the agency’s post-9/11 interrogation methods, following the release of a Senate report that slammed their tactics as "brutal" and ineffective.
“These interrogations … gave us kind of a Home Depot-like storage of information on Al Qaeda on which we relied,” Hayden told Fox News. “We are still relying on it today.”
Hayden was one of the top-ranking intelligence officials in the federal government for a decade. He first served as director of the National Security Agency, before taking over at the CIA in 2006 during the George W. Bush administration, under which the interrogation programs began.
Hayden sharply disagreed with the conclusions in the roughly 500-page Senate Intelligence Committee report that techniques such as waterboarding were not effective in gathering intelligence. The report -- a summary of a much larger, classified report -- was released by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, despite warnings from Republicans and some inside the Obama administration that it could lead to reprisals against Americans.
Hayden on Wednesday said the interrogation or debriefing of roughly 100 detainees resulted in 8,000 pages of intelligence reports, or about 50 percent of what U.S. intelligence officials know about Al Qaeda.
“We got an awful lot of information,” said Hayden. “The argument they make was that we got zero intelligence that was not otherwise available from this program.”
Hayden also argued the Democrat-led report lacks the context that Americans were gripped with fear about a possible follow-up to the 9/11 terror attacks.
“Since we’ve made them feel safe again, they start complaining that we did too much,” said Hayden, who also questions the accuracy of the report. “No one involved with the program can even imagine how they got to this conclusion.”
Hayden and other former directors and deputy directors also penned an op-ed on Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal calling the "one-sided study" a "partisan attack." They also disputed claims that the takedown of Usama bin Laden was not aided by information gleaned from the program.
CIA officials have said the program provided the "bedrock" understanding of the Al Qaeda network that it is still being drawn on today. One former CIA officer told Fox News, for instance, that once accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's will was broken, he generated more than 2,000 intelligence reports.
But the Senate report, a summary of a still-classified 6,000 page study, concludes the interrogation techniques were "brutal and far worse" than the CIA represented to lawmakers. It details an array of harsh methods including sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours. The report called CIA management of the program "deeply flawed" and said the spy agency gave "inaccurate" information about it to Congress and the White House.
Feinstein, D-Calif., the head of the intelligence panel who ordered the release of the report, said Tuesday on the Senate floor that the CIA techniques in some cases amounted to "torture."
Fox News' Catherine Herridge and Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.