The CIA, accused of using harsh interrogation techniques to extract intelligence from detainees, does not engage in torture, agency Director Porter Goss said today. He said agents were working to penetrate terrorist sanctuaries and had made some headway in locating the leaders of al Qaeda.
"What I wish I knew more about now was how to penetrate into some of the sanctuary areas," Goss said in an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America" at the agency's headquarters in Langley, Va. "They can be in harsh terrain that is hard to manage or they can be in the heart of the city, in a ghetto or slum area where people don't regularly go. Knowing how to find those places and getting to penetrate them, I think is going to be the hardest part of this business."
A perfect example of this is the search for Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Bin Laden is believed to be in the mountains of Afghanistan; al-Zarqawi, somewhere in war-ravaged Iraq.
"We know a great deal more about bin Laden, Zarqawi and [bin Laden aide Ayman] Zawahiri then we're able to say publicly," Goss said. He said the men had not been found "primarily because they don't want us to find them and they're going to great lengths to make sure we don't find them."
Goss would not discuss the agency's interrogation techniques, but steadfastly refused to call them torture.
"… I define torture probably the way most people would -- in the eye of the beholder," he said. "What we do does not come close because torture in terms of inflicting pain or something like that, physical pain or causing a disability, those kinds of things that probably would be a common definition for most Americans, sort of you know it when you see it, we don't do that because it doesn't get what you want.
"We do debriefings because debriefings are the nature of our business, is to get information," he said. "We want accurate information and we want to make sure that we have professional people doing that work, and we do all that, and we do it in a way that does not involve torture because torture is counterproductive."
Goss has been the director of the CIA for a little more than a year. A Florida congressman for 15 years, he served as an U.S. Army intelligence officer from 1960 to 1962 and a clandestine service officer with the CIA from 1962 until 1972.
Goss, 67, said he was playing a "new game," and trying to run a leaner agency with "a little less regulation and less red tape."
"We're putting people overseas in different ways than we have ever done before," he said.
Goss said that the agency was "the gold standard by any measure" in terms of human intelligence.
"We don't get it right every time," he said, "but I don't think there's anybody who could even come close."
Goss also would not address recent reports that the CIA runs secret prisons in Europe for detaining and interrogating detainees.
"We're fighting a war on terror," he said in response to a question about the prisons. "We're doing quite well. Inevitably, we're going to have to capture some terrorists and inevitably they're going to have to have some due process. It's going to be done lawfully."