Inside Look at How Coerced Interrogation Helped Lead to Bin Laden

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 5, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight: an inside look at how the coerced interrogation worked in the bin Laden case. As you may know, only three captured terrorists were waterboarded, all Al Qaeda big shots and, again, the information they provided has been vital in defeating the terrorist group.

Joining us now from Washington, Marc Thiessen, the former chief speechwriter for President Bush, who had access to the intelligence on this subject that the president had. Now, I want to set this up. The president asked you to write a speech on coerced interrogation. You also use the information to write a book called "Courting Disaster." Is that correct?


O'REILLY: OK. So you saw what Mr. Bush saw. What is the headline?

THIESSEN: Well, the headline is CIA interrogations work. I mean, the fact is in the period after 9/11, we knew absolutely nothing about the enemy who attacked us. We did not know that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of 9/11. We didn't know who his key operatives were. We didn't know what they had planned. And then we started capturing these terrorists. We captured Abu Zubaydah, who was a key Al Qaeda facilitator, and he gave us information that led us to Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who was one of key KSM's key operatives. And they together led us to KSM. And KSM was resistant when he came into the -- when he was captured by the CIA. When they asked him about new plots, he said soon you will know. And he said I will tell you everything when I -- when I get to New York and see my lawyer. And he didn't see a lawyer. He was put under enhanced interrogation techniques and he went -- once he went through those, he made a decision to cooperate. And when he was done, he was running a graduate level class on Al Qaeda operations for the CIA. The former director…

O'REILLY: And you believe that he was broken because of waterboarding. He was waterboarded many times.

THIESSEN: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: OK, now…

THIESSEN: There is no -- there is no question.

O'REILLY: Let's zero in on the courier who was the key to finding bin Laden. I understand that the -- that KSM and another guy who is subjected to enhanced interrogation mentioned…

THIESSEN: Abu Faraj al-Libi.

O'REILLY: OK, mentioned the courier, pick it up.

THIESSEN: Well, I mean, they -- we had very little information about Al Qaeda's courier networks. What happened was first -- Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who were the first guys brought into the program, gave us some general information about couriers and some code names for those folks. When KSM was interrogated after he underwent waterboarding; not during it, afterwards. When he was going -- when he was being questioned, he acknowledged that he -- they had given us the name of this fellow al-Kuwaiti which was a nom de guerre and KSM admitted that he knew him. Then in 2004, we captured a fellow named Hassan Ghul who was a senior Al Qaeda operative. He was captured in Iraq, and he told us that this courier al-Kuwaiti was a key lieutenant of KSM's successor Abu Faraj al-Libi…

O'REILLY: Now, did he do that under duress -- let me just -- did he do that under duress or did he just tell us?

THIESSEN: Well, this is the thing that people don't understand. You're hearing a lot of the left is trying -- the deniers of this program are trying to say, well did they use -- did they tell us this under waterboarding or under standard interrogation later and that misunderstands how interrogation works. Enhanced interrogation was never used to get intelligence; it was used to get cooperation. So you took a detainee like KSM, who is in the state of total resistance, and you used the enhanced interrogation techniques to bring him to a state of cooperation. And when he's under enhanced interrogation techniques, they are asking him questions they already know the answers to in order to gauge whether he had stopped lying and made the decision to cooperate. And then, once he starts cooperating, the technique stops. In most cases with enhanced interrogation, the detainees went under them for a couple of days. And KSM -- he was a really tough, tough guy. He was -- he went for about a month. But once that month ended, the interrogation, the enhanced interrogations stopped and we had a -- they had a conversation with him like you and I are speaking today.

O'REILLY: All right. So you are convinced then that the information provided by KSM and then the other guy Ghoul who was captured a couple of years later…


O'REILLY: …pinpointed for the CIA this courier and then they started to tail him and that led to bin Laden's demise. Is that correct?

THIESSEN: Well, actually, yes, well, Abu Faraj, I'm sorry Hassan Ghul told us that he was a key operative of Abu Faraj al-Libi, who was KSM's successor after he was captured. So they capture Abu Faraj in 2005 and he's brought into the CIA interrogation program. He's not waterboarded, but he undergoes enhanced interrogation and was resistant, brought into a state of cooperation. And then, he starts giving them information about the courier networks and he's identifying individuals and giving them information about how the couriers operate, where the drops are and so on and so forth. And then they ask them about al-Kuwaiti, and he says I don't know him. And you know, people say that's proof that he, well, he lied. But we knew that he knew him because Abu -- because Hassan Ghul had told us that he was his key deputy. So one -- that was the red flag that told the CIA this is the guy he's protecting. This is the guy we have to go after. So if it had not been for that process, starting with Abu Zubaydah in 2002, identifying the names; KSM confirming the name; Hassan Ghul telling us he was Faraj's deputy and then Faraj denying that he even knew the guy, then they -- the CIA would have never known this is the guy to zero in on and they went after him, found him and it took years to do it. Found him and eventually followed him to bin Laden's lair.

O'REILLY: Very fascinating. What do you make of John McCain coming out and saying that you know that all of this enhanced stuff doesn't work and didn't do anything for us?

THIESSEN: Well, he, like Barack Obama, has a vested interest in saying it doesn't work because he was an opponent of it. I mean, the big problem we face now, Bill, is that we don't have this tool anymore. Barack Obama, on his second day in office, eliminated this tool from our counterterrorism arsenal. So the tool that got us the intelligence that led us to Usama bin Laden is no longer in use. We have not captured and detained and interrogated a single high-value detainee since Barack Obama was president, and that's the longest period.

O'REILLY: All right. And that brings me to my last question, that there is a big shot, an Al Qaeda big shot in custody in Pakistan, Umar Patek. Who he is?

THIESSEN: Yes. He is a very, very senior guy. This is in -- after when KSM was captured, he gave us information that rounded up a network of Southeast Asian terrorists that he had pooled together in order to plan the follow on attacks after 9/11. And the only guy who got away was Umar Patek, and he's been hiding out in the Philippines for about 10 years. He disappeared from the face of the earth. All of a sudden, the news reports started indicating that he was in Yemen. Then there were news reports, the Associated Press reported that he was at a meeting of jihadists in Mecca. And he shows up…

O'REILLY: All right, so we got -- I've got to cut to the chase here. We got him.


O'REILLY: But we don't have him. Pakistan has him. How come we haven't talked to him?

THIESSEN: All right. That's because, one, we don't have -- the black sites have been closed by Barack Obama and the enhanced interrogation techniques are gone. So we have no interrogation plan. Leon Panetta said if we ever capture UBL and bring him to Guantanamo, we should bring Umar Patek to Guantanamo Bay.

O'REILLY: But we can't because Pakistan won't hand him over.

THIESSEN: Well, that's a problem…

O'REILLY: That is a problem.

THIESSEN: …when KSM was captured, they handed him over.

O'REILLY: All right.

THIESSEN: When bin al-Shibh was captured, they hand him over but…

O'REILLY: All right. This is a big story that's just developing. This is fascinating. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

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