For example, a substantial portion of the National Intelligence Estimate I mentioned earlier--in terms of its judgments and assumptions--is informed by the intelligence we've obtained from our detention program. More than 70 percent of the human intelligence reporting used in that estimate is based on information from detainees.
A year and a day ago, the President publicly acknowledged the existence of CIA's detention and interrogation program. Since it began with the capture of Abu Zubaidah in the spring of 2002, fewer than 100 people have been detained at CIA's facilities. And the number of renditions, apart from the fewer than a hundred detainees, is itself an even smaller number.
These programs are targeted and selective. They were designed for only the most dangerous terrorists and those believed to have the most valuable information, such as knowledge of planned attacks. But they also have been the subject of wild speculation, both here and overseas.
Case in point: a European Parliament temporary committee has claimed that, and I quote, "at least 1,245 flights operated by the CIA flew into European airspace or stopped over at European airports between the end of 2001 and the end of 2005." And it said so in a context that implied that many--or even most--were rendition flights.
The actual number of rendition flights ever flown by CIA is a tiny fraction of that. And the suggestion that even a substantial number of those 1,245 flights were carrying detainees is absurd on its face.
What did some of these flights carry? It could be equipment to support our people in the field. Documents that we're sharing with our allies. Maybe even me.
Flights like the ones I take to visit our allies are good things. They are signs of our close cooperation.
As a method used against the most dangerous terrorists, there's nothing new about renditions for either America or our allies. Consider the cases of Carlos the Jackal and Abdullah Ocalan, whose renditions were upheld by European courts.
Renditions before and since 9/11 share some basic features. They've been conducted lawfully, responsibly, and with a clear and simple purpose: to get terrorists off the streets and gain intelligence on those still at large. Our detention and interrogation program flows from the same inescapable logic.
And a lot of what you hear about our interrogation and debriefing techniques is not only false, but it tends to obscure a point our officers understand well: when face-to-face with a detained terrorist, the most effective tool--bar none--is knowledge. That means things like familiarity with the subject's background, knowing the right questions to ask, and countering lies with facts. One detainee, for example, became quite cooperative in his debriefing when he arrived at a site and we told him not only who we were, but also who he was--and then we added where he came from and his operational history!
If CIA, with all our expertise in counterterrorism, had not stepped forward to hold and interrogate men like Abu Zubaidah and Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, people in America, Europe , and elsewhere would be right to ask why. We shouldered that responsibility for just one reason: to learn all we can about our nation's most deadly enemies so that our operations to undermine them are as effective as possible.
Serious people in free societies are still grappling with how best to address the fight against terrorists in a way that is both effective in protecting our people and consistent with our liberal democratic principles and traditions. The exchange of ideas between our societies is building a stronger consensus on the way forward.
It's not hard to see increasing signs of this cross-pollination--and of a growing realization that we all confront a distinctly new type of threat. Germany's interior minister, Wolfgang Schauble, recently cast the situation in these terms: