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THE SITUATION ROOM
Debating Torture; Interview With General Michael Hayden; Viral Video of Cop Punched at Chokehold Protest; Surprises Hidden in $1 Trillion Budget Plan
Aired December 10, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And new pushback. The former Bush CIA director General Michael Hayden is fuming after a Senate report accusing him of misleading the nation about brutal interrogation tactics and whether they amounted to torture. General Hayden is joining us live this hour.
Plus, this: a police officer punched. A protester is accused of assault. The video goes viral as peaceful protesters against the NYPD chokehold death try to keep their message alive.
And brutality exposed. North Korean defectors share some new horror stories about Kim Jong-un's regime, including beatings, hunger, humiliation and death.
We went to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We have got the breaking news tonight on terror threats to the United States. New evidence coming into THE SITUATION ROOM that a top bombmaker for the terrorist group Khorasan may not be dead after all, this as some extremists are calling for retaliation against the United States.
They're posting online rants against the accounts of torture detailed in a new Senate committee report on the CIA's interrogation of terror suspects. There's also growing backlash in the United States and indeed around the world. We have our correspondents, our analysts, our newsmakers, they're all standing by with new information.
But first, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
Barbara, what are you learning about this top Khorasan bombmaker?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Khorasan group, that group of hard-core al Qaeda operates in Syria, U.S. has been bombing them for months. They thought their top bombmaker, a Frenchman named David Drugeon, that they had gotten him in a previous airstrike.
Now today two U.S. officials tell me there's every reason to believe David Drugeon is still alive, that he did not die in a previous airstrike. He is the master bombmaker for the Khorasan group. This is someone that knows how to make bombs that can potentially, potentially get past airport security. They're monitoring this group now. They're to track him and other Khorasan leaders down -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You're also learning more about the fallout from the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's interrogation terror suspects, right?
B. STARR: Yes, Wolf. Let's tell everybody right now that tomorrow will be a very interesting day and to keep watch. CIA Director John Brennan will hold what is an unprecedented press conference at CIA headquarters to meet with reporters and answer their questions.
CIA headquarters one of the most secure buildings in the world, reporters will go there and listen to what he has to say, even as the world continues to read this report and see what the CIA did.
B. STARR (voice-over): Today, the impact of the torture report spread even as key allies are speaking out.
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Torture is wrong. Torture is always wrong.
B. STARR: Afghanistan's new president, Ashraf Ghani, furious at the CIA report, calling it shocking.
ASHRAF GHANI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN (through translator): This is really painful. The report indicates that some of our countrymen who were tortured have been totally innocent.
B. STARR: Condemnation from around the globe, even as the White House insists making the secret activities public was the right thing to do.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president did decide that the benefit of releasing this report and taking the significant step to rebuild our moral authority was necessary.
B. STARR: Military and intelligence officials continue monitoring for any violent reaction. The concern, a demonstration could break out such as those across the Muslim world in 2012 after a U.S. film mocked the Prophet Mohammed. Marines remain on alert, ready to move if U.S. embassies and installations are threatened. Officials insist they are always ready.
GREG STARR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think that I have never seen security taken as seriously as it has been in the last two years.
B. STARR: A monitoring group has found some jihadi Web sites calling for retaliation against U.S. personnel involved in the torture. Human rights groups calculate some 50 governments around the world secretly helped the CIA, including Thailand, Egypt and Morocco. Several years ago, Syria tortured a detainee after the CIA helped engineer sending him there.
And the Libyans also shared information on tortured detainees. Countries who helped the CIA now in a political crosshair. The former Polish president says he knew the CIA had a secret interrogation site in Poland, but he insists he knew nothing of the torture.
ALEKSANDER KWASNIEWSKI, FORMER POLISH PRESIDENT (through translator): The Americans, by publishing this report, in large part lose their allied abilities, because in a new situation, every country will be wondering to what extent the U.S. can be trusted.
B. STARR: Now, even Iran weighing in on all of this, Iran's supreme leader today posting a number of tweets, and started with this drawing he posted we want to show you, reminiscent of a hooded prisoner at Abu Ghraib, the U.S. military facility years ago in Iraq, the supreme leader going on to say in one of his tweets that the U.S. government is a symbol of tyranny against humanity.
So the Iranian government, the supreme leader there, even one of the world leaders weighing in on this situation. Tomorrow, we will hear more from the CIA about what happened and their view about all of it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And it underscores if the former Polish president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, if he's so upset about what happened, and he was very close to the Bush administration when he was president of Poland, obviously it's a serious, serious dilemma for close U.S. allies around the world.
Barbara, thank you very much.
We're going to have live coverage of the CIA Director John Brennan's news conference at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, tomorrow, 1:30 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
A top U.N. official says there should be no statute of limitations or immunity for prosecution for Bush era officials responsible for any torture that may have occurred.
Let's go to our justice reporter, Evan Perez. He's got new information and a new statement, Evan, I take it you have just received it from the Justice Department.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
The big concern has been whether or not officials from the Bush administration and CIA could face prosecution as a result of the details that were released in this report. You heard from a former Bush administration attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, there's some countries he doesn't travel to.
The big concern is, would some of those countries, some of our own allies prosecute these people? And so we have a statement from the Justice Department, what would happen if they got such a request? Here's the statement.
"In the event of an action by a foreign court prosecuting authority against U.S. government officials, the U.S., through the Departments of Justice and State, would raise appropriate jurisdictional and other legal defenses to prevent unwarranted prosecution of U.S. officials."
Wolf, the question is, what would happen if they sent an arrest warrant to the United States and what would the Justice Department do? I'm told by sources that the U.S. would not enforce that arrest warrant, which obviously would be a problem with some of our allies -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly would be. And you did hear Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general of the United States, here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the last hour say, he's reluctant to travel to several European countries, NATO allies, out of fear that he -- some magistrate over there could arrest him on allegations of war crimes because he was involved in authorizing these enhanced interrogation techniques.
We heard the same thing from John Rizzo, the former chief counsel for the CIA, saying he's going to take a vacation in Yosemite Park. He's not going to Europe right now because he's afraid he could be arrested as well.
Evan, thank you very much for that report. We're standing by. We will be speaking later this hour with former CIA Director Michael Hayden. He's got very strong views on this Senate Intelligence Committee report. That's coming up. Stand by for that.
In the meantime, let's bring in CNN national security analyst Bob Baer, our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN counterterrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.
Jeffrey, you heard a lot about a disagreement on this crucial question whether laws were broken. Where do you see this situation unfolding, whether U.S. officials, CIA officials, government contractors, actually potentially broke the law? Because a lot of the sordid details are contained in this Senate Intelligence Committee report.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think as far as I can tell from the report that virtually all of them broke the law. Torture is illegal. Torture is illegal in the United States. it's illegal under international law and United States government officials authorized it and conducted it.
But I don't see any way that anyone is going to be prosecuted at this late date. The American government clearly is not going to do it. President Obama has made that clear. And this idea of arrest warrants in Europe, you know, I can understand why these officials are cautious. But I don't think there's a realistic chance that anyone is really going to be prosecuted. So did they break the law? As far as I can tell, absolutely,
yes. Will there be any legal criminal consequences? Absolutely not.
BLITZER: Have you researched whether, Jeffrey, there are any statute of limitations that would prevent the Justice Department, for example, from going after some of these officials?
TOOBIN: All these crimes do have statute of limitations, but they vary I think from about five to 10 years.
We are approaching that moment. I just don't see any momentum, any interest in the Justice Department to pursue Bush administration officials. The president has been very clear about this from the beginning, that the chapter has closed. This is an appropriate subject for investigation, for disclosure, for coming clean. But as for trying to put anyone in jail, that's just not going to happen.
BLITZER: Paul, could the details released in this lengthy, 500 -- 600-page report create a higher risk for terrorist attacks against the United States, whether on American soil or against Americans around the world?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Wolf, groups like ISIS and al Qaeda obviously are going to try to exploit this for propaganda purposes, for recruitment purposes, but there's been a pretty muted reaction in the Middle East so far, also a pretty muted reaction on jihadi Web sites and social media. There have been a few calls from English-speaking jihadists for retaliatory attacks, but by and large, this has sort of met with a big amount of indifference.
For a lot of these jihadi types, it's old news and they already have a very dark view of the United States. I'm sure think the United States is engaged in a war to exterminate Islam. I don't think it's going to have the same big impact that other controversies in the past have had like the cartoons controversy, the film that was released just before the Benghazi attack and reports and allegations of description of the Koran.
Those were really sort of hot button issues which touched on religious sensitivities. I don't think we're going to see that type of reaction this time around, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, Bob Baer, when the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, the secretary of homeland security, or the FBI, James Comey, the FBI director, or the Department of Defense, Chuck Hagel, the secretary of sort of, when they issue these kinds of warnings, these bulletins to U.S. military personnel, go on a higher state of alert, to all local enforcement around the United States to go on a higher state alert, is this just -- why would they do this if they're really not that worried about retaliation for the release, for the information released in this report?
BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, it's a precaution.
These groups, these jihadi groups are unpredictable. We don't want to see another Benghazi, an attack on a U.S. facility. They want to make utmost preparations for anything like that. It's pretty standard. But I totally agree with Paul, they don't really care. There are worst conflicts going on for the jihadi, Iraq, for instance, when we have effectively sided with Iran. We're still dropping drones on Pakistan and Yemen.
I think this is going to pass without too much happening. But you can't predict it, and that's why Homeland Security and the FBI and the Department of Defense have issued these warnings.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, did you understand why the Senate Intelligence Committee refused to interview anyone, any of these officials from the CIA directly in preparation of this lengthy report?
TOOBIN: It's certainly a gap in the report.
There's only a certain amount that you can get just from documents. I think there was the question of whether there would be cooperation there, and I guess given the magnitude of the undertaking, it took six years just with the documents.
But there's no question if you are doing a real criminal or civil investigation, the usual practice is to use documents, but then of course, also interview the witnesses.
BLITZER: The argument that Dianne Feinstein made on this program yesterday, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jeffrey, was that the Justice Department had told the Senate Intelligence Committee you can't interview these people because potentially they could be under criminal investigation.
What do you make of that argument?
TOOBIN: That strikes me as a pretty weak argument, especially since the administration has been very clear from almost the day that Barack Obama took office that he was not going to be prosecuting these people.
Yes, it's true, the statute of limitations has not run, there is certain potential, at least in a theoretical way, criminal liability. But that is not the posture of a government agency, the Justice Department, that wanted the Senate intelligence agency to get to the bottom of this. They didn't want to do it, and the Justice Department didn't want this material, these interviews to take place, so they didn't take place.
And it certainly left this report with a weakness, but through no fault of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
BLITZER: I want to take a quick break, but hold on for a moment, Jeffrey. I have one quick question. The report does state of the 119 known detainees who had these techniques used on them, some call it torture obviously, 26 were wrongfully held. The question is, was that legal, was that illegal?
Assuming there were going to be prosecutions, for those folks who went after these detainees, 26 wrongfully held, could they be charged? TOOBIN: Well, could they? I suppose if the government were to
start today a criminal investigation, that possibility will exist.
But there is no criminal investigation. This Justice Department has made clear there's not going to be a criminal investigation. So there's just not going to be any prosecutions. If you want to do a law school hypothetical about whether it's possible, I suppose it's possible, but it's just not going to happen.
BLITZER: I want you all to stand by. Paul Cruickshank, Bob Baer, also stand by. We're going to be speaking with General Michael Hayden, the former CIA director. He's going to be joining us in a little while as well.
Much more of the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with the CNN security analyst Bob Baer, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and our CNN counterterrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.
Paul, just weigh in, because you have been monitoring reaction from around the world. These terrorists, the ones that hate the United States, they don't need another excuse, they're going to go after the United States, but here's the question. Will this report inspire others to align themselves with ISIS, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Shabab, some of these other terrorist groups?
CRUICKSHANK: I don't think, Wolf, that that's necessarily the case.
These jihadi types already have plenty of grievances against the United States. They believe the United States is engaged in a war on Islam. Many of their fellow officers have been killed in U.S. missile strikes, in U.S. drone strikes, whether that's in Somalia or Yemen or Syria or Iraq.
And so they already have plenty of reasons to go after the United States. And ISIS has already encouraged lone wolves in the United States to try and launch attacks. So I don't think this is significantly going to increase the potential of a terrorist attack here, Wolf.
BLITZER: You won't be surprised, Bob Baer, the former Vice President Dick Cheney, he is suggesting that this report, the Senate report that Senator Dianne Feinstein released yesterday doesn't represent the truth. And I guess he was intimately involved in all these details. Your reaction?
BAER: I think it does represent the truth, or at least a piece of it.
What really worries me is the Europeans. I think they're perfectly capable, a judge in Europe, to bring indictments against George Tenet, even John Brennan, who was executive director at the time this all started. European courts have indicted almost a dozen CIA officers in Milan for rendition. It was based on this sort of evidence.
And that was in cooperation with the Italian government. So the polls and everybody else who cooperated with the CIA in renditions in these prisons very reluctant in the future to help. It's going to damage liaison relations. And I think it's unseemly this has all been put out in public and it's going to damage us. The quicker we get to the end of this, the better.
BLITZER: Stand by. I want all of you to stand by, because joining us now is the former director of the CIA, General Michael Hayden.
General Hayden, thanks very much for coming.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Hi, Wolf.
BLITZER: You hate this report, don't you?
HAYDEN: Yes, indeed.
BLITZER: You hate it because?
HAYDEN: Well, because it's a prosecutorial screed, rather than an objective look at the CIA interrogation and detention program.
Look, I understand the need for people in a democracy to understand what the government does on their behalf. I'm afraid that's not the document.
BLITZER: But they refer to all these CIA documents that were made available to the committee in these 500, 600 pages.
BLITZER: Those are the ones that have been declassified, redacted. There are still, what, 6,000 pages of more information.
And if you speak to members over there, they're not giving details, but they say the details are even worse, even more damning than what's included in this document.
HAYDEN: Well, Wolf, you're a correspondent. You're a journalist. You seek truth like we did in the intelligence community.
If you had a chance to talk to people or just kind of rummage through their e-mails, which would you do? Or maybe you would like to do both. This report was based upon a four-year fishing expedition amongst six million pages of CIA documents. And call me crazy, Wolf. I think they actually began with a conclusion and then worked backward into that sea of documents in order to create a case for each of the conclusions.
BLITZER: Here's one of the documents. It says this. It's pretty harrowing. "CIA officer ordered that Gul Rahman be
shackled to the wall of his cell in a position that required the detainee to rest on the bare concrete floor. Rahman was wearing only a sweatshirt. The next day, the guards found Gul Rahman's dead body. Rahman likely died from hypothermia, in part from having been forced to sit on the bare concrete floor without pants."
That sounds like torture.
HAYDEN: Well, first of all, it was not part of the high-value detainee program. It happened in Afghanistan at a site run by an inexperienced CIA officer.
Shame on us. We put this young man in a position for which we had not prepared him. It was reported to the Justice Department. In fact, the high-value detainee interrogation program that this report says it is telling you about, it is a product of how CIA mishandled some of these early battlefield detentions in Afghanistan.
In short, Wolf, the program I went down to explain to the Congress in 2006 and 2007 was the program we put in place because of mistakes like the one with Gul Rahman.
BLITZER: All right, so let's talk about some of the other pretty brutal things that came out of this report.
It states this. We all knew, by the way, about the water- boarding, the sleep deprivation. But it then goes on says this. "At least five detainees were subjected to rectal rehydration or rectal feeding. There's at least one record of Abu Zubaydah receiving rectal fluid resuscitation for partially refusing liquids."
Is that legal? Is that torture? What is that?
HAYDEN: Well, no, it's a medical procedure is what it is.
Wolf, I'm learning about this somewhat, too, because, as you know, almost all of this took place before I became director. But I have learned that, in some instances, one way that you can get nourishment into a person is through this procedure, as opposed to intravenous feeding, which of course involves needles and a whole bunch of other dangerous somethings.
And, Wolf, let's not forget, as we speak, the current government of the United States is using force-feeding on detainees at Guantanamo, who also are refusing to eat.
BLITZER: Is that rectal, though?
HAYDEN: No, it's not. And I'm not prepared to tell you why one method was chosen over another at some point in the past.
I would think, though, that before making that kind of accusation, somebody may have wanted to go talk to someone and actually get their explanation as to why and when and for what purpose this was done. BLITZER: Senator Feinstein told me yesterday when she was on our
show, she said they would have been happy to interview CIA officials, but the Justice Department told them you can't interview these officials because they could potentially be subject to criminal investigations.
HAYDEN: Gee, that's odd, because my successor at the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, told Senator Feinstein and told the CIA work force that because of the investigation, he could not compel anyone to appear before the Senate committee, but they were free to do so.
And I might add, Wolf, that investigation ended two-and-a-half years ago. Let me add a further point. John Rizzo voluntarily appeared before the House Intelligence Committee to answer questions about the destruction of videotapes which was part of the investigation that Senator Feinstein is claiming made it impossible for her to talk to any human beings. I wasn't subject to that investigation, George Tenet, John McLaughlin, Porter Goss, none of those.
BLITZER: If they would have called you, Dianne Feinstein, we want you to testify, you would have said?
HAYDEN: Well, I would have to think about it, Wolf, because if it was a star chamber, I would have to think about it long and hard.
On the other hand, if I thought it was a legitimate investigation, which could have been evidence by calling people in to talk, then I might have gone to talk.
BLITZER: Let me play you a little clip. This is what she told me. She was really very, very blistering when it came to the CIA. You used to be the director of the CIA. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: The CIA spent $40 million to prevent us from issuing this report. That is fact.
We did not spend the money. We used our staff to do this report. They went into our computers illegally to take out information, not once, not twice, but three times, which I believe is a separation of powers violation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Sounds like potential crimes there. Your reaction?
HAYDEN: Well, my reaction is, CIA spent $40 million to stop this report? I'm sorry, Wolf, I'm just -- I'm blank on that one. I have no idea what that would mean.
I do know it's been routinely reported in the press that this investigation, this is the product, cost $40 million over four years, and was done not just by Senate staff, but by contractors who were hired for this very purpose.
Since we're trying to figure out who shot John here, I want to know what happened to the Senate sergeant at arms investigation that was launched to find out how this document, the so-called Panetta report, ended up on the SISI (ph) side of the firewall, when it was not one of the documents that the CIA intended to share. What happened to that investigation?
BLITZER: What about this allegation she makes that the CIA was eavesdropping, was illegally going after the Senate Intelligence Committee, searching for documents, in her words, almost effectively breaking the law, separation of powers violation?
HAYDEN: Well, I will let the current director answer that question, Wolf, because I haven't been charge in of the CIA for six years.
BLITZER: What stunned you the most in reading, going through this document? Because I met with -- I spoke with Alberto Gonzales in the last hour. He was the White House counsel. He authorized it together with John Rizzo, who was the CIA counsel for a long time.
He said, when he saw some of the stuff in here -- he doesn't know if it's accurate -- he was stunned by some of the -- some of the stuff that was going on that he didn't know about. He knew about the water- boarding, the sleep deprivation, but he didn't know about some of the other torture.
HAYDEN: Actually, the one you focused on, I think, was the rectal rehydration, the first question you asked me. And again, I didn't know that it was going on, because it was not an interrogation technique. It may have been a medical procedure. I'm quite happy to listen to an explanation as to when -- why it was used.
What stunned me about the report most was the fact that it was written in the way it was written. It is an unrelenting prosecutorial document with no sense of amelioration in the language.
BLITZER: And I want to point out, you became the CIA director in 2006, and most of this stuff was happening before you were the CIA director.
HAYDEN: There were a total of about 100 prisoners. I know that's one of the issues: how do you account for them, where do you book them? Is it part of this program or that if they were captured?
There were, in my mind, 99. Ninety-seven of them were captured and held before I got there. And let the record also show, and I think this is really important, Wolf. I'm the one who emptied the black sites in the summer of 2006.
BLITZER: The black sites overseas, you mean.
HAYDEN: That's correct. And I'm the one who insisted within the administration with, I should add, the strong support of President Bush, to go to the other political branch, the Congress in the fall of 2006, and explain this program in its entirety to them, because before it had only been limited to the Gang of Four or the Gang of Eight.
BLITZER: Did you close those black sites in various countries, and a lot of them have been named -- whether Poland, Morocco...
HAYDEN: No, no. We did not, no. And we said this publicly at the time. The day President Bush gave that speech in the East Room, and he announced we had just brought 14 al Qaeda leaders to Guantanamo, when I gave the press background that day, in specific response to a question, I said, "We are not closing the sites. This program continues. It continues under different conditions. The number of detainees now is zero. There could be detainees in the future."
And in fact, Wolf, quite different from the highly charged secretiveness early in the program, we had two detainees while I was director, and we announced them both as they moved out of the black site and we pushed them into Guantanamo.
BLITZER: Was there anything illegal that was going on, based on what we now know as a result of this report?
HAYDEN: I'm sorry, the...
BLITZER: Anything illegal that U.S. officials, whether CIA officials, contractors, military personnel, what was illegal as far as you could tell?
HAYDEN: Sure. There were several things that were illegal. Particularly early in the program that the agency self-reported and were investigated not once but twice by U.S. attorneys. An awful lot of the things that are going on as news here were things that the agency knew about already and already reported to the Department of Justice.
BLITZER: When you were the CIA director, did you hold back sharing some of these details with President Bush, because he really shouldn't know what was going on, trying to protect him if...
HAYDEN: No, not really, because what we're doing, Wolf, we were down-shifting from a regime which we were 13 techniques to a regime in which we had about six techniques.
And so one of the questions the president is going to have to answer -- one that he's going to have to ask and I might have to answer is, are these six enough? Well, Mr. President, let me tell you what they are and why it is my guys think that this will be good enough going forward. So we had that conversation.
BLITZER: The Osama bin Laden -- capture and killing of bin Laden, this report, Dianne Feinstein, she says that the torture, the interrogation, the severe tactics, whatever, really played no role in the capture of bin Laden, and that officials at the CIA routinely, she says, regularly resulted in fabricated -- the torture techniques regularly resulted in fabricated information.
HAYDEN: OK. So you've got a two-part question, Wolf. OK. Did anything in this program lead to Abbottabad and the death of Osama bin Laden? I'm not going to answer that.
What I'm going to suggest to you is to have the senator talk to Leon Panetta. Leon Panetta, who was actually the commander in chief of that (UNINTELLIGIBLE), had operational control of the forces. Leon Panetta said it did. So I'll just leave it there. He's the one that said this was one of the sources of information that led us to Abbottabad. There is no denying it, is what my successor said.
Now, the second question?
BLITZER: Did the torture techniques, the enhanced interrogation techniques, result in fabricated information that put U.S. officials on the wrong track?
HAYDEN: It resulted in fabricated information. I don't know whether it put us on the wrong track.
Wolf, I said at the time, I said in my testimony to the Hill, I said in my public speeches that the most powerful tool we had in dealing with detainees is not the enhanced interrogation techniques. The most powerful tool we had, bar none, was our knowledge. We knew how to bump up the things they were telling us with the universe of information that we were creating, a lot of it from other detainees.
And so when someone told you something, Wolf, look, these people didn't become flag-waving American citizens after they went through this program. They gave us some information more freely. There were other pieces of information they were reluctant to talk about.
Actually, one of the core indicators that we were on the right path with the courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, was the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who by then had become routinely cooperative with us, clammed up in a way that was obvious to us he was hiding important information.
BLITZER: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he was water boarded, what, 180 times?
HAYDEN: When the International Committee of Red Cross asked Khalid Sheikh Mohammed how many times he was waterboarded, he said five. The 183 times is pours of the water, about six seconds each. Now, if you want to consider that -- each of those an independent waterboarding, then you probably need to decide that each pitch in a baseball game is a separate game.
BLITZER: Is waterboarding torture?
HAYDEN: Waterboarding, according to the last three out of the last four attorneys general of the United States, it's not.
BLITZER: And so if you had to do it over again, you would still waterboard?
HAYDEN: I don't know, Wolf, and I've said this publicly in the past. I'm quite comfortable saying it. I thank God I didn't have to make that decision. Other people did. And you know what? There are a whole bunch of other people who ought to be thanking God they don't have to make the decision either.
BLITZER: If Americans were captured, POWs, let's say military, and were waterboarded, would that be OK?
HAYDEN: You know, this all depends on the totality of circumstances at the time. And if that particular American had just been responsible for the death of 3,000 innocent people, I may have a rather large view of what was permissible.
BLITZER: Are American officials like yourself -- and we spoke to John Rizzo yesterday, the CIA counsel; Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general; he was the White House counsel -- are they in danger now if they leave the United States and go to friendly countries, whether Belgium, Spain, Italy, France, where a magistrate could arrest them for war crimes, if you will?
HAYDEN: Yes. Listen, I listened to Bob's comment -- Bob Baer earlier. I think Bob has got it right: it certainly increases the odds that that might happen to former U.S. officials.
And so I've got a question for you and maybe for the audience, Wolf. Is that an intended or unintended consequence of the report? The increased risk to American officials traveling overseas to countries who claim universal jurisdiction, was that an intended or unintended consequence?
BLITZER: Are you saying that -- are you saying that the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Democrats at least, Dianne Feinstein, wants these people like Alberto Gonzales or John Rizzo not to travel around the world because they potentially could be arrested?
HAYDEN: Wolf, if I wanted to say that, I would have said that. What I asked you was, is it an intended or unintended consequence? I'm telling you I have a question.
BLITZER: So you think it was unintended?
HAYDEN: No, I'm not saying either one.
BLITZER: Because Alberto Gonzales and John Rizzo, they didn't want to travel outside the United States before -- even before this report was released because of all the suspicion that they signed off on the waterboarding.
HAYDEN: And again, I ask you, will this report make this more or less likely? I think Bob has it right, it's more likely. Another question I ask you: Was that one of the intended outcomes or was it just a necessary byproduct?
BLITZER: Are you comfortable with everything the CIA did going back to 9/11?
HAYDEN: No, of course not.
BLITZER: What were the blunders? HAYDEN: Putting an electric drill next to the ear of a detainee.
The death of an individual at the salt pit in Afghanistan. The death of another individual called Giamati (ph) at Iraq. There are specific circumstances around each of those, and we can talk about them at length if you like.
But there are a lot of things I wish didn't happen. Fundamentally, Wolf, at the end of the day, I can't in my heart of hearts wish that we didn't have to do this. But we did have a duty.
BLITZER: And you believe that lives were saved as a result of this?
HAYDEN: Look, anybody who has touched this program of either political party, under either administration, believes that to be true.
BLITZER: And I do know, because I've spoken with Leon Panetta, and he said publicly that he believes that these enhanced interrogation techniques, together with other information, did play a role in the killing of bin Laden.
HAYDEN: And Wolf, let me just add one final point. These are tough issues. I respect people who say, "I don't care whether they worked or not. I don't want you doing it." That is a highly principled position.
But this report isn't that argument. This report is you lied, you misled, you overstepped, and you didn't get anything out of it. But that's actually fact, not ethical view. And we could use a very well-balanced, historically accurate account of what happened here. This just isn't that.
BLITZER: So your bottom-line message to Dianne Feinstein is?
HAYDEN: No, my bottom-line message to your viewers, before you rush to judgment, don't read just this report, but read the CIA rebuttal. Read the CIA -- read the Republican minority report, as well. So that you have perhaps a broader range of information before you decide.
BLITZER: General Michael Hayden, thanks very much for joining us.
HAYDEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: The former CIA director, former head of the National Security Agency. We appreciate it very much.
Just ahead, a protester against police brutality throws a punch at a police officer. We're going to have reaction. The video has now gone viral.
BLITZER: We're watching a new protest against police brutality. Demonstrators have been holding a so-called die-in outside the federal courthouse in Orlando, Florida.
After many days of mostly peaceful protests across the country, a video has now surfaced online showing a demonstrator, look at this, punching a New York City police officer. He's been arrested on assault charges and he's reportedly been linked to another incident where an officer was punched.
Let's bring our panel. Joining us, our CNN anchor Don Lemon, our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, and the community activist John Gaskin.
Tom, let me start with you.
This police officer took a punch right in the head. This could have gotten a whole lot uglier. How do the police -- and you used to be a cop on the street, how do you deal with a situation like this, in a very emotionally tense setting already?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it just shows you, Wolf, that the police are trying to have a kinder, gentler presence out there. He's not wearing a helmet or a mask or a protective gear because it offends so many people, and he gets punched in the face.
So, you know, this is the one thing. We're asking our police officers to go out there and sacrifice themselves so that it looks like they're being nice guys.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, this is a small, tiny minority of these protesters have gotten violent like that.
Don, I want to bring you into this conversation, because there are some grieving mothers out there who have lost their sons at the hands of police officers. They spoke out today here in the nation's capital.
Let me play this little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERALYNN BLUEFORD, MOTHERS AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY: People are tired, they're sick and tired of the genocide against our young men. They're sick and tired of not having the value of life, and our young people are sick and tired of not having hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Don, I know you're going to speak to several of these mothers later tonight on CNN at 10:00 p.m. tonight. But when you hear that, it's obviously very emotional and very powerful.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: There's nothing like a mother's grief. You could feel it and you could hear it in her voice. That is pain. I don't know what that pain is like, but when I sat down with three of the mothers during the Ferguson incident, and during the Michael Brown incident, I sat down with three of them and your heart just breaks. You know, I hear from moms that the worst pain that you can
experience is the loss of a child. No child should go before parent. And so, that's what you're hearing in her voice.
And, you're right, we're going to speak to eight of the nine mothers that will join us tonight on "CNN TONIGHT". But it's -- you know, Wolf, it's just awful regardless of the circumstances. It's just awful to have to experience that.
BLITZER: Yes, you can't imagine anything more painful than a mother losing a son in situations like this. And we're going to obviously be watching your program later tonight.
Jeffrey, you remember, of course, a lot of our viewers with the alleged police brutality that we've seen, including that traffic stop in Indiana that terrorized a family, that family now suing.
So, here's the question: is this the new normal? Are we going to see violent conversations between police and civilians and lawsuits that emerge?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this has been normal for a long time. There have been lawsuits against the police in many of these celebrated cases. In fact, the lawsuits, the civil lawsuits have generally been a lot more successful than criminal prosecutions.
What usually happens in these notorious cases is that there's a lawsuit, there's some pretrial fencing, and ultimately the municipality pays, often a substantial amount of money in a settlement. Certainly that's what's happened here in New York with the Abner Louima situation, the Amadou Diallo situation. It's a major, major expense for these municipalities.
The criminal cases, as we keep discussing, often don't go very far. But certainly, civil cases have been around for quite some time.
BLITZER: John gaskin, a lot of us will remember that Montgomery bus boycott during the civil rights era, it's lasted, what, 381 days. It's now been 123 days, we counted, since Michael Brown was shot, a week since the Eric Garner grand jury decision was released.
What's the mood out there? You are a community activist. Are these protests going to continue? Are they far from over? Or is it sort of ending pretty soon?
JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: They're actually picking up, you know, with this week, there are a number of civil disobedience actions that have been planned. There are a lot of teach-ins taking place not just in New York, but across the country, especially in the Bay Area of California. You know, this movement, compared to the Montgomery bus boycott is moving in a quicker direction because of social media, because of, obviously, the role that the media is playing.
But I believe the protests and the direct actions will continue to pick up, especially as we go into the weekend. As you know, there are a number of national marches and directions that are planned for New York and Washington, D.C. this coming weekend.
So, as we see in the coming weeks, the coming days, I believe they will pick up, they become more significant, and they'll obviously continue to receive more attention via social media.
You know, this movement, you know, started in Ferguson. Many people viewed it as just a moment and it appears that it has turned truly into a movement, if you take a look at the protesters, if you take a look at the people in the street. People have their children out there. They are black, white, Hispanic, Asian. You know, the diversity of this movement is amazing and it is very encouraging.
BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, speaking of Ferguson, we've now learned that that joint federal county two-hour interview conducted days after the shooting of Michael Brown, that the friend, Dorian Johnson, who was on the street with Michael Brown, that interview wasn't released even though the St. Louis County prosecutor promised all of the evident put before the evident would be made public.
Do we know why that interview has been held up?
TOOBIN: You know, I don't know. I can speculate but I don't think that is a healthy thing to do.
Certainly, Dorian Johnson's story was before the grand jury. I believe he testified before the grand jury, but his interview was not before the grand jury. So, you know, the short answer is I don't know why it hasn't been released. I don't know why it wasn't before the grand jury.
But his story, which was one of the most important eyewitness testimony, although highly controversial and some people said it was -- it was not accurate, his story was before the grand jury.
BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much, to all of you.
Don Lemon, we'll see you at 10:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight, looking forward to the interview. It's going to be a powerful interview with those eight mothers.
Tom Fuentes and John Gaskin, all of you, thanks very much.
Much more news coming up right after this.
BLITZER: Right now, some very important last-minute wrangling in Congress to try to avoid a shutdown. Lawmakers are expected to vote on a compromised budget plan tomorrow, just hours before federal agencies are due to run out of money.
Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You're going through this bill. A lot of surprises, still some
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It is a massive $1.1 trillion bill, we would kill too much trees to print it and show how big it is. But it is the kind of bill everybody trounces (ph) about because of all of the hidden surprised.
BASH (voice-over): Tucked inside the 1,603-page spending bill, a slew of holiday bonuses for special interest, nothing to do with funding the government but a lot to do with the powerful getting help with their priorities.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This is about juicing the bottom line for a handful of big banks and doing it at the expense of the American taxpayers.
BASH: Many Democrats are up in arms about a provision that helps Wall Street, agreed to by their own Democratic negotiates that repeals a key reform intended to protect consumers post-financial meltdown.
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: This was an attempt to use what is viewed as a must-pass bill to give this huge gift to Wall Street.
BASH: Democratic sources tell CNN they worry this opposition could take down the whole bill. And there's more slipped in way back on page 1,599, a change in campaign finance laws that allows wealthy donors to give $1.5 million to political parties every two years.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: The billionaires can now put unlimited sums of money into electing candidates who represent their interest.
BASH: Other add-ons, new rules easing First Lady Michelle Obama's controversial healthy school lunch standards, and a federal program that helps feed women and children can now call white potatoes a fresh vegetable, but it just so happens that Mike Simpson, who comes from potato producing Idaho, chairs the subcommittee in charge of that program.
Plus, up in smoke, Washington, D.C.'s new recreational marijuana law. Congress is effectively blocking it.
And score a win for GOP opponents of light bulb regulations. This would do away with the ban on traditional incandescent light bulbs. When Republicans took control of the House, this kind of backroom-dealing was supposed to stop.
(on camera): This is exactly the kind of Christmas tree bill throwing everything on that you campaigned on and you -- against. You promised to do this.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I understand. All of the provisions have been worked out in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion where they wouldn't be in the bill.
BASH (voice-over): Things like taking the sage gorgeous bird off the endangered species list.
BASH: Now, it is true that everything extraneous was agreed on by negotiators in both parties. Many Democrats see this as their last chance to set their priorities before Republicans take full control of Congress in January. But, Wolf, there is a lot of Democratic frustration and they are scramble to have a meeting tonight. There's also conservative opposition for other reasons.
So, there is a chance that this might go down tomorrow. If that happens, don't expect a government shutdown. They will pass a short- term spending bill to keep the government running.
BLITZER: No more government shutdown, at least for now.
BLITZER: All right. Dana, thanks very much. We'll stay in close touch with you tomorrow.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead and tweet me @wolfblitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitroom. Please be sure to join us again tomorrow, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Watch us live or DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.