"It's something important for everybody to understand about this. Whatever you call them, it was authorized. It was legal, according to the attorney general of the United States," Tenet said. "Nobody held us back. This is not a secret from the, from the perspective of the CIA going off and doing something."
Gibson asked Tenet if he considers the practice of water-boarding, in which interrogators blindfold a prisoner and simulate drowning, to be torture.
"I'm not gonna talk about techniques. I'm just not gonna go there with you," Tenet replied.
He also wanted to point out the context of fear he was working in after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"The plotlines that we were dealing with -- that dealt with nuclear weapons in New York City, apartment buildings blowing up, plots against airliners, plot against the airport -- no one will remember … how much we did not know about what was going on inside the United States. And so, there's a context to all this," Tenet said.
He added that intelligence officers think about values and the protection of the American people "very seriously."
"And what we need from the political leadership is continuity of purpose, bipartisan leadership, everybody being on the same page because here's where we don't want to be as a country. The next time a terrorist attack occurs, don't race and swing the pendulum one way or the other, just let's make a determination, and figure out where we want to be," he said.
Tenet's now speaking out nearly three years after his resignation from the CIA -- making criticisms he did not make during the 2004 election.
"I thought I had some responsibility to think about what had just happened, reflect on what I saw, get my thoughts together, think about this in a serious way, not dump this in the middle of some election," Tenet said. "I was too close to what had just happened … you don't want to write in anger, you want to write in balance, you want to give people some historical perspective. I'm now a teacher … you know, what would you tell your students you learned about this time period?"