THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me, before I respond to that, let me state a proposition. It's very important to discriminate between different elements of -- or issues that are often at times conflated and all joined together and balled up. People take Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and interrogation of high-value detainees and sort of throw that all together and say, characterize it as torture policy.
You've got to, I think, back off and recognize that something like Abu Ghraib was not policy. It was, in fact, uncovered and then exposed by the military. There were people involved in that activity who were not conducting themselves in accordance with the standards that we would have expected, and they've paid the price for it. Guantanamo I believe has been a first-rate facility. It's one we absolutely needed and found essential. It's been primarily a military facility. If you're going to evaluate how it's functioned, the policy that we adhere to at Guantanamo basically is the U.S. Army Field Manual.
With respect to high-value detainees and enhanced interrogation techniques, totally separate proposition under the jurisdiction of the Central Intelligence Agency and applied to only a few people who were individuals like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, who we believe possessed significant intelligence about the enemy, about al Qaeda, about their future plans, about how they were organized and trained and equipped, where they operated.
And after 9/11, we badly needed to acquire good intelligence on the enemy. That's an important part of fighting a war. What we did with respect to al Qaeda high-value detainees, if I can put it in those terms, I think there were a total of about 33 who were subjected to enhanced interrogation; only three of those who were subjected to waterboarding -- Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and a third, al Nashiri. That's it, those three guys.
Was it torture? I don't believe it was torture. We spent a great deal of time and effort getting legal advice, legal opinion out of the Office of Legal Counsel, which is where you go for those kinds of opinions, from the Department of Justice as to where the red lines were out there in terms of this you can do, this you can't do. The CIA handled itself, I think, very appropriately. They came to us in the administration, talked to me, talked to others in the administration, about what they felt they needed to do in order to obtain the intelligence that we believe these people were in possession of.
I signed off on it; others did, as well, too. I wasn't the ultimate authority, obviously. As the Vice President, I don't run anything. But I was in the loop. I thought that it was absolutely the right thing to do. I thought the legal opinions that were rendered were sound. I think the techniques were reasonable in terms of what they were asking to be able to do. And I think it produced the desired result. I think it's directly responsible for the fact that we've been able to avoid or defeat further attacks against the homeland for seven and a half years.
And come to the question of morality and ethics, in my mind, the foremost obligation we had from a moral or an ethical standpoint was to the oath of office we took when we were sworn in on January 20th of 2001, to protect and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And that's what we've done. And I think it would have been unethical or immoral for us not to do everything we could in order to protect the nation against further attacks like what happened on 9/11. We made the judgment, the President and I and others, that that wasn't going to happen again on our watch. And I feel very good about what we did. I think it was the right thing to do. If I was faced with those circumstances again, I'd do exactly the same thing.
Q You would disagree that policy on detainee treatment was made opaque enough that these abuses at Abu Ghraib were -- obviously not directed from the top, but under pressure for more intelligence -- were allowed -- not allowed, but basically --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Abu Ghraib, like I say, I don't think had anything to do with policy, as I understand it. And the people that they were -- the people that were subjected to abusive practices there I don't think had any special intelligence understandings, or if you will, special intelligence information that we needed. I mean, this was not -- as I say, I don't think it was related to policy. I think it was, in fact, a case of individual personnel who were perhaps not properly supervised. And I think the military deserves a lot of credit for the way they handled it because they're the ones that cleaned it up.
Q Foreign perception of the United States as we've had to fight these dual wars, can you talk -- what you think has happened? Why has America -- the perception of America changed so much in the last eight years? And what do you think will happen over the next few years?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, has the perception of America changed? I suppose it has in some quarters. I think that some of the things we had to do after 9/11 to respond to it and to protect the nation against a further attack clearly generated controversy in some quarters. But what a lot of our friends overseas never really understood, at least not initially, was that 9/11 fundamentally changed the way we looked at this question of terror attacks.
Prior out-of-date 9/11, we looked upon terrorist incidents as a law enforcement problem. You go out and find the bad guy, try him and put him in jail. That's the way we dealt with the World Trade Center bombing in '93. After 9/11, we made a decision, and I think it was exactly the right decision, that when you -- when these actions result in the deaths of 3,000 people here on the homeland, more than we'd ever before lost in this kind of incident, more than Pearl Harbor, then this was a strategic threat to the United States. And when you view it in those terms, then we believed we were fully justified, and indeed obligated, to use all the resources at our command to defeat that enemy so that they couldn't do it again.
And that means you're prepared to use military force, use your intelligence asset to go after those who support terrorism financially, to go after those states that sponsor terror and provide sanctuary or safe harbor to terror. And that's what we did.
I think some of our friends overseas didn't agree with those policies. I think over time that has -- the situation has improved. And after people saw what happened here, but then saw what happened in London when the -- I guess the subways were bombed and buses and so forth, or what happened in Madrid, the train bombings, or more recently, what's happened in Mumbai, that this kind of international terrorism is indeed a threat to those of us who lived in the developed world. And tough, aggressive policy is what's required to succeed against it, and that's what we put in place.
As I say, some of our friends weren't all that happy with it, but a lot of them were, in fact, and supported it. And even as we went into Iraq, while some of our historic friends and allies criticized that, an awful lot -- for example, the NATO states, especially the new member states, sent troops to serve alongside our guys.
So I think it's evolved over time. I think that it's less controversial now than it was, although there's still, obviously, controversy about things like Guantanamo and so forth.