'Special Report' Panel on the CIA, Terrorism, and the Middle East

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from December 11, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JOHN KIRIAKOU, FORMER CIA AGENT: I will admit I'm a Democrat, something I'm proud of. But I don't think waterboarding was a bad idea in 2002 when it came up. Waterboarding was developed for a very specific purpose, and it was successful in allowing us to achieve that goal of getting that information that saved American lives.


BRIT HUME, HOST: This guy didn't actually see anybody waterboarded, but he said he was briefed on it by his colleagues in the CIA.

And the person that we're all talking about is a man name Abu Zubaydah, who was said to have led us to the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of 9/11, whose capture and subsequent confessions helped save lives in the eyes of many intelligence experts. There were attacks planned and they were successfully thwarted.

This comes in the middle of the debate about the destruction of tapes of Abu Zubaydah and others.

Thoughts on all this now from Juan Williams, Senior Correspondent of National Public Radio, Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune Magazine, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Well, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House and Senate Intelligence Committee are going to investigate this. Some want a special prosecutor. Juan, where is this going?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think that right now it should stay in the intelligence committee in the Senate. And I think Senator Rockefeller is right when he says this is something that we have been involved in all along. It's for us to investigate.

But there are political pressures coming to bear. And it think the political pressure is to somehow force not only justice — there's pressure on the Attorney General Mukasey because, as you know, he said that he wouldn't condemn waterboarding.

HUME: But he says he's looking into it.

WILLIAMS: Yes. But he says he is looking into it and he has his aides looking into it. But I think the Senate is where this is going to play out, and I think that's right.

NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: I think this is fast becoming another important issue of the day that's going to become an obstruction of justice issue instead of the root issue.

And what we know from this former CIA agent, if he is to be believed, is that waterboarding has probably been used twice.

One of the times is on this Al Zubaydah, who was a financier of 9/11, who was captured at a time when he was building a bomb to go off in a British school in Pakistan at the time of his capture, that he was — they couldn't get him to talk, and that after 30 to 35 seconds of waterboarding, he began talking, and, according to this CIA agent, he led them to information that thwarted attacks, led them to the top of the al Qaeda structure.

So this whole question, again, this whole question — and, again, this guy said in another interview — this whole question of when is it appropriate to use, or is it not appropriate to use a tactic like that if it's going to save lives — that question is going to be lost in the whole obstruction of justice issue.

HUME: This whole investigation is really about the destruction of the tapes, not about the validity of the techniques.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Right, but in thinking about it, let's use an analogy. In this country, capital punishment is legal and considered the right thing to do in a narrow number of cases.

But we don't have public executions and we don't put them on tape and broadcast them. Why? Because the killing of a helpless person, which is what the death penalty is, is an ugly thing, which would evince sympathy for the criminal and revulsion against those lawfully acting in carrying it out.

We know from this Kiriakou guy that waterboarding was the right thing to do. It saved lives. It worked. It was used in a narrow number of cases. It was not done like the Abu Ghraib psychopaths for sadistic pleasure an amusement. It was used to obtain information, and it did.

As he said, it broke one terrorist in 30 seconds and another, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in three minutes. This is after he said he wanted a lawyer. After that, he didn't want a lawyer, he confessed, and it saved a lot of lives.

Destroying the tapes was also the right thing to do. Why? Because it is an ugly thing to do, but was done to them. And showing it would evince revulsion against the interrogators, who saved our lives, and sympathy for the terrorists.

WILLIAMS: But, Charles, that wasn't the case that was made, even by CIA Director. The case that was made was that he was protecting the identities of the CIA interrogators, and he didn't want them to be possibly subjected to prosecution.

Now, if that's the —

HUME: I think he thought it was enemy attack.

WILLIAMS: My impression was he thought that they could be subject to prosecution for violating the law.

HUME: They could still be subject to prosecution for violating the law, tapes or no tapes.

WILLIAMS: That's what I think —

HUME: I don't get what your talking about.

WILLIAMS: OK — and their identities could similarly be obscured if he was worried about enemy attacks on them or their family. So it just doesn't make sense.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think he gave the wrong justification. It was the weaker of the two. It's not a plausible one. The real reason is this stuff is ugly. It had to be done, and it shouldn't be on television.

HUME: Now, how does this issue play out? Once again, we have Democrats in congress, most conspicuously led by Senator Biden, who wants a special prosecutor on this, leading the charge against rough stuff by our people in furtherance of the war on terror. Does this play well politically — Juan?

WILLIAMS: Look, first of all, what you got to say is Jay Rockefeller is a Democrat, and he says he doesn't want a special prosecutor. But it does not play well for Democrats to say that they are not going to stand by in a critical moment, 24-type scenario, where there is a possible attack coming.

EASTON: It's also messy for since there were some Democrats going back to 2002 who said this was OK, and possibly you should use even more aggressive techniques. They were interested in getting the information.

KRAUTHAMMER: If the Democrats attempt to exploit this, they will be hurt on the hypocrisy issue, and also on the question of being weak on defending American lives.

HUME: When we come back, the latest political dance in Moscow, where President Putin's handpicked successor suggests a new job for the man who picked him, and there he is. More on this in a moment.



DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it is crucial for our country to keep Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin in the most important role in the executive branch — that of Prime Minister.


HUME: The handpicked successor to Putin is now picking Putin to be prime minister in what he himself calls the most important role in the executive branch. So it seems that what is new is actually what is old.

What about this? Juan, what do you think?

WILLIAMS: It's permanent government. We thought that there had been a transition taking place, moving more towards democratic principles in Russia. Apparently not.

And you see this extends beyond the political. The political is so interesting, because if you are familiar with big city politics in the United States, you know how things start.

And it turns out these guys, Putin and Medvedev were working together in St. Petersburg City Hall in the 1990s, and they have come up together, and he has always been the junior partner in the relationship. And, apparently, he intends to now be the junior power and cede all power over what they call the "Power Agencies Defense Intelligence" to Putin once more.

So it is like Putin stays in power, and it is just a little shuffling of the deck chairs.

EASTON: Junior partner — it is funny, because he has been in the press — today, especially. He has been called a liberal, a modernizer, pro- western, I think partly because of his business background. He did not come from the KGB and he didn't come from the military.

But I think we have made this mistake before. Charles will go into this, but we made this mistake in thinking that these new Russian leaders were going to be great reformers, and we have called it wrong.

I think he is not tied to the public. They cut the opposition off at the knees today be announcing that he would be the successor. And I think it is going to be Putin all over again.

KRAUTHAMMER: I like the stories on the new guy that says he is a fan of British heavy-metal, which is supposed to make you think he is a liberal.

I am old enough to remember when Yuri Andropov was appointed to succeed Brezhnev, and he was supposedly a guy who loved jazz and western sophisticated liquors. This was going to make him a liberal. He was the head of the KGB, and he is the toughest, meanest, most dangerous soviet leader of our time. Thankfully, he died early.

But Medvedev is an interesting guy. He is the head of the gas monopoly — cracked down on Georgia and Ukraine, pushing them around. So he is not a softie, but he is young. He graduated from law school at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union. So he is really a post Soviet guy.

And he, apparently, worked on behalf of human rights as a student — not as a dissident, but on behalf of them.

And, lastly, he gave an interview with "BusinessWeek" in which he spoke about the autocracy in Russia today, which is what it is. From the perspective of Russian history, in the early 20th century, when under the control of the Czar, there was liberalization happening.

And if that is so then he might be a person who would see that as the model, that he would liberalize over time.

Now, of course, in the short run, he has no power. He is a creature of Putin, and won't effect anything outside of what Putin wants. However, once he is appointed, he can acquire a authority over time. So, in the long run, he could end up as a liberalizer.

WILLIAMS: It would be a pleasure, but what happened to democracy? The opposition candidate will get no television time.

HUME: He is not going to wind. We can agree on that.

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