The first is context. The detention and interrogation program was not built in a vacuum. It was created in the months after Sept. 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 men, women and children were murdered. It was constructed shortly after Richard Reid narrowly missed bringing down an airliner with explosives hidden in his shoes. It continued while U.S. intelligence learned that rogue Pakistani scientists had met with Osama bin Laden to discuss the possibility of creating crude nuclear devices.
When we captured high-ranking al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida in 2002, we knew he could help us track down other terrorists and might provide information to allow us to stop another attack. Those who suggest we should have questioned him more gently have never felt the burden of protecting innocent lives.
Second is effectiveness. I don’t know what the committee thinks it found in the files, but I know what I saw in real time: a program that provided critical information about the operations and leadership of al-Qaeda. Intelligence work is like doing a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box top and with millions of extra pieces. The committee staff started with the box top, the pieces in place, and pronounced the puzzle a snap.