Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair sat down with Charlie Rose for an interview airing Friday night. Per the “Charlie Rose” program, some highlights from the raw transcript are excerpted below.
“When I first came in as DNI, that question was before us. So I called for the experts to come in, got the reports, and read them, and said you know what is the most effective interrogation technique we have? When it’s done under duress is that — do you actually get true information better than if you don’t use that? And the answer, Charlie, is we don’t know. There has not been systematic science and work on it, and what you have are a bunch of anecdotes. Some people say yes, some people say no. So I think the question is unanswerable, if the techniques that we used back in the wake of 9/11 yielded information that could not have been gotten in another way or not….We don’t. We don’t know right now if putting physical stress on people makes them tell the truth more, better, faster than with not.”
On Iran’s nuclear intentions:
Charlie Rose: Your judgment is – that Iran will stop short of making nuclear weapons.
Dennis Blair: If I had to have one choice but I wouldn’t bet my national policy on that. I would make a national policy if I were still in government that had the breadth to cover both possibilities because as I said, Iran hasn’t made up its mind. We don’t know who will win in this argument so we have to be ready either way.
Charlie Rose: Iran has not made up its mind.
Dennis Blair: Iran has not made up its mind. The supreme leader has not yet spoken…
I think they will pull back, add up all of the different factors — Iran has made rational decisions in terms of pros and cons and plusses and minuses in the long run. I think they’ll do the same on this one.
On Al Qaeda and the Taliban:
“The alliance between al-Qaeda leadership and Taliban leadership is very real and they are the same, they have the same goals. In fact, what’s frightening is that the alliance between the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistan Taliban, who’s carrying out an attack as early, as late as yesterday…The LeT, which is carrying out attacks in India. All of that group, which is in that same region, on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, thinks it’s wonderful to blow up bombs in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States. They trade logistics back and forth, they trade money; they trade bomb makers. And so it really is a common effort that all of us have to undertake to put them out. And they are allied with each other. You cannot allow one to be secure because it’ll give aid and comfort and sanctuary to the others. So that’s why the Taliban and al-Qaeda are part of the same problem, that’s why we have this Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy which tries to get them both.”
On tangles with the CIA and DNI authorities:
“I inherited this issue also. It had been kicking around the intelligence agencies for a year or so. So I called in some people, checked on what all the different agencies thought and I thought that I would assign a director [spelled phonetically]. In the great majority of the cases it would be station chief but on occasion it might not be. It’s up to the DNI to make that decision. You know, the CIA appealed to the White House and the White House felt it should be the station chief. You know, it distracted a lot at an early stage. It wasn’t a fight or an issue that I sought. This one was an issue I inherited. But in retrospect, you know, I wish it hadn’t come up so we could have gone on to other things.”
On his tenure:
“I’d say the things that I was trying to do that turned out not to be entirely politically correct were for improvement of the intelligence community as I saw it. Maybe I was a little naÃ¯ve on some of the bureaucratic political aspects of it. But I think they were right from the point of view of integrating and I think they’ll eventually come to pass as we get our intelligence agencies tighter and better integrated. Maybe I was a little bit early.”
On restructuring the CIA:
“I still think the right structure is with the DNI overseeing it. Just some examples. The CIA does human intelligence and it does analysis. Those are the two pieces. That’s an odd sort of combination for — no other country has it that way, and it’s really a product of history. Most of our intelligence, now, an increasing proportion, comes from the National Security Agency, with all of the information that’s going on the internet and on the global information network.”
“I think maybe there are some developments there, in which our all-source analysts, who are the best of which and the largest part of which are in the CIA, some of them are in DIA, ought to be put together in an analytical agency. CIA perhaps becomes simply a human collection agency as the National Security Agency is a signal intelligence collection agency. And the National Geospatial Agency does the interpretation of pictures in various wavelengths. And then bring that all into an analytical agency, all of that being orchestrated by the DNI.”