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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  April 29, 2012 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT

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captioning funded by cbs and ford-- built for the road ahead. >> stahl: you were getting pressure from congress and the white house to take the gloves off. did you go to the dark side? >> well, the dark side, that's what we do. >> stahl: you are the dark side. >> we are the dark side. >> stahl: after the attacks on 9/11, jose rodriguez was put in charge of the c.i.a.'s counter- terrorist center, where he implemented techniques like sleep deprivation, confinement boxes, and water-boarding against al qaeda suspects. i mean, this is orwellian stuff. the united states doesn't do that. >> well, we do. this program was about instilling a sense of
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hopelessness and despair on the terrorists, on the detainees so that he would conclude on his own that he was better off cooperating with us. >> safer: what's your poison, your addiction? is it legal or illegal? whatever it is you're hooked on, from coffee to cocaine, smoking pot to pigging out, nora volkow has your number. for three decades now, volkow has been looking, literally, into the brains of addicts. what do you make of that common phrase, "just say no"? >> if it were so easy, i think that we would have no problem with obesity, we would have no problem with drugs. saying to someone "just say no" is magical thinking. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm morley safer. >> i'm bob simon. >> i'm byron pitts. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight on "60 minutes."
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let's solve this. >> stahl: after the attacks of 9/11, the c.i.a. sought and was granted unprecedented authority to capture al qaeda suspects,
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whisk them off to secret sites, and interrogate them with harsh techniques, including water- boarding. the man who ran the interrogation program was jose rodriguez, a c.i.a. spy in latin america who rose to become head of the clandestine service, the cia's dark side. when the agency's secret program was revealed, it was widely criticized, but the blunt-spoken puerto rican-born rodriguez is fighting back. he's written a book, a defense of the interrogations called "hard measures," and tonight, you will hear his side of the story. it's the first time someone this close to the program, this accountable has gone public explaining why techniques that had long been condemned by the u.s. as torture were employed. >> jose rodriguez: for the first time in our history, we had an enemy come into our homeland and kill 3,000 people. i mean, that was a huge deal. people jumping from the towers
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to their death. the people running away from the cloud of dust, terrified out of their mind. this was a threat, and we had to throw everything at it. >> stahl: which is why jose rodriguez says that, when he ran the c.i.a.'s counter-terrorist center, he came up with the idea of employing harsh interrogation techniques. and ten years later, he feels he still has to justify their use. you had no qualms? we used to consider some of them war crimes. >> rodriguez: we made some al qaeda terrorists with american blood on their hands uncomfortable for a few days. but we did the right thing for the right reason. and the right reason was to protect the homeland and to protect american lives. so, yes, i had no qualms. >> stahl: rodriguez spent 31 years in the c.i.a.'s
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clandestine service, where spies are revered as "fighter jocks." he rose through the ranks, eventually running covert operations as head of the latin america division. when al qaeda struck on 9/11, he'd had no experience in counter-terrorism or the middle east. but he wanted in on the war on terror, and went to the c.i.a.'s counter-terrorist center, where the main objective was to stop another attack on the u.s. homeland. >> rodriguez: we were flooded with intelligence about an imminent attack, that al qaeda had an anthrax program, and that they were planning to use it against us. and that they were seeking nuclear materials to use in some type of nuclear weapon. so we were facing a ticking time bomb situation and we were very concerned. >> stahl: so you were getting pressure from congress and the white house to take the gloves off. did you go to the dark side? >> rodriguez: well, the dark side, that's what we do. >> stahl: you are the dark side.
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>> rodriguez: we are the dark side, yes. >> stahl: his first big operation came after the capture of a palestinian, thought then to have high-level al qaeda connections, named abu zubaydah. when he was taken prisoner in pakistan in the spring of 2002, abu zubaydah was badly injured in a firefight. >> rodriguez: he actually was on the verge of dying. we brought in a surgeon from the u.s. to help him out. >> stahl: you brought in a top- rate surgeon from johns hopkins. >> rodriguez: yes, the best that we could find. >> stahl: you save him so you can squeeze everything out of his brain that you can? >> rodriguez: so we could elicit intelligence that would allow us to keep our country safe. so we took him to a black site. >> stahl: "black site"-- it was the first of several secret interrogation centers around the world. abu zubaydah was still recovering from his gunshot wounds when the interrogation began. when you start the interrogation, it's both the
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c.i.a. and the f.b.i., right? >> rodriguez: correct. this was our prisoner, our site, our show. >> stahl: meaning the c.i.a.? >> rodriguez: the c.i.a., but we had invited the f.b.i. to come along. >> stahl: now, there's a big dispute over which agency got more information and more valuable information. at first, f.b.i. interrogators used their standard interviewing techniques with no coercion, and abu zubaydah cooperated, giving tips and leads, but... >> rodriguez: after he regains his strength, he stopped talking. >> stahl: and then, he just shuts down. is that what happened? >> rodriguez: he shuts down. >> stahl: but the fbi's lead interrogator says he didn't shut down, and he argued at the time that they should continue with their traditional methods of questioning. rodriguez, though, heard the ticking time bomb and felt a sense of urgency. >> rodriguez: if there was going to be another attack against the u.s., we would have blood on our hands because we would not have been able to extract that information from him. so we started to talk about an
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alternative set of interrogation procedures. >> stahl: so you're the one who went looking for something to break this guy. >> rodriguez: yes. and let me tell you something, you know, because years later, the 9/11 commission accused... or said that 9/11 was a failure of imagination. well, there was no lack of imagination on the part of the c.i.a. in june, 2002. we were looking for different ways of doing this. >> stahl: his search led him to a former military psychologist who had helped train american soldiers in how to resist torture if they were captured. the psychologist adapted the brutal tactics of our cold war adversaries into what the cia called "enhanced interrogation techniques." a team of interrogators, about six of them, was given a two- week training course, and while rodriguez himself never engaged in any of the sessions with detainees, he supervised the program.
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did he... the psychologist, did he tell you how long it was going to take, if you use these techniques, to break abu zubaydah and anybody else that you might capture? >> rodriguez: you know, he had speculated that, within 30 days, we would probably be able to get the information that we wanted, yes. >> stahl: but before moving forward, rodriguez got his superiors, right up to the president, to sign off on a set of those techniques, including water-boarding. >> rodriguez: we needed to get everybody in government to put their big-boy pants on and provide the authorities that we needed. >> stahl: "their big-boy pants on..." >> rodriguez: big-boy pants. let me tell you, i had had a lot of experience in the agency where we had been left to hold the bag, and i was not about to let that happen for the people that work for me. >> stahl: there wasn't going to be any deniability on this one? >> rodriguez: there was not going to be any deniability. and i tell you something-- in august of 2002, i felt i had all the authorities that i needed,
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all the approvals that i needed. the atmosphere in the country was different. everybody wanted us to save american lives. >> stahl: the authorities came from the justice department in an opinion, later dubbed one of the "torture memos," that detailed what was permissible. >> rodriguez: we went to the border of legality. we went to the border, but that was within legal bounds. >> stahl: even after you got the justice department legal office to give you this okay, you kept going back and back with each thing you did, over and over. >> rodriguez: we wanted to make sure that the rest of government was with us. >> stahl: how does the water- boarding that you engaged in, how did that work? >> rodriguez: the detainee was strapped to an inclined board with his feet up so that no water would go...
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>> stahl: so, his head was back. >> rodriguez: so, his head was back. and a cloth was placed over the... the mouth and nose, and water was applied to it. >> stahl: oh, he couldn't breathe through his nose. >> rodriguez: so when he was saturated, then the air flow would be stopped. >> stahl: and he'd have the sensation of drowning. >> rodriguez: and he would have the sensation. >> stahl: was he naked? >> rodriguez: in many cases, nudity was... was used extensively. and it worked well. >> stahl: why is nudity effective? >> rodriguez: it is effective because a lot of people feel very vulnerable when they're nude. and also because of the culture. nudity, it is not something that is common. >> stahl: each step they took was specifically spelled out in the justice department memo. for instance, uncooperative detainees could be put in a small, dark "cramped confinement box with an insect" in it. as for water-boarding, the interrogators were allowed to pour water for up to 40 seconds at a time "applied from a height
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of 12 to 24 inches," using about a liter of water per session. oh, you had rules for each thing? >> rodriguez: yes, we had rules. and not only that, but every time we did any of this, we had to ask permission. the field had to ask permission of headquarters. >> stahl: each time. >> rodriguez: each time. >> stahl: each single time. after abu zubaydah was subjected to the cia's menu of interrogation techniques, rodriguez says he became compliant in less than three weeks. was it water-boarding that broke the dam with abu zubaydah? >> rodriguez: i think he was more taken aback by the insult slap. >> stahl: oh, what's the insult slap? >> rodriguez: it's just slapping somebody with an open hand so that you don't hurt them. >> stahl: by "hurt," you mean you don't break his jaw? >> rodriguez: we don't break his jaw. and the objective is not to... to inflict pain. the objective is to let him know there's a new sheriff in town, and he better pay attention.
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>> stahl: you also employed stress techniques? >> rodriguez: uh-huh. there was a technique where the detainee would sit on the floor and would raise his hands over his head. >> stahl: in other words, he had to hold his hands up there forever and ever, right? >> rodriguez: forever and ever? i was thinking about this the other day. the objective was to induce muscle fatigue, and most people who work out do a lot more fatiguing of the muscles. >> stahl: are you saying this was like going to the gym? come on. >> rodriguez: a little different. >> stahl: yeah. central to the interrogation was sleep deprivation. abu zubaydah was kept awake for three straight days. >> rodriguez: sleep deprivation works. and i'm sure, lesley, with all the traveling that you do, that you have suffered from jet lag. and you know, when you don't get a good night's sleep for two, three days, it's very hard. >> stahl: now, you don't really mean to suggest that it's like jet lag. i mean, you make it sound like it's benign when you say stuff like that. >> rodriguez: well, i mean, the
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feeling... >> stahl: and you go into the gym and jet lag... >> rodriguez: well, the feeling that you get when you don't sleep. >> stahl: but i mean, these were enhanced interrogation techniques. other people call it torture. this was... this wasn't benign in any... any sense of the word. >> rodriguez: i'm not trying to say that they were benign. but the problem is here is that people don't understand that this program was not about hurting anybody. this program was about instilling a sense of hopelessness and despair on the terrorist, on the detainee, so that he would conclude on his own that he was better off cooperating with us. >> stahl: he says once abu zubaydah became compliant, the harsh treatment stopped and he became a fountain of information. but the fbi interrogators remember it differently. in fact, what they say is everything important that he gave up, he gave up to them before the harsher interrogation
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techniques kicked in. >> rodriguez: well, that is just not true. it's not true. >> stahl: well, now, they say that, and you say, "it's not true." what am i supposed to think? i don't know. the f.b.i. and c.i.a. disagree, and it's impossible for us to resolve the argument because details of the interrogations remain classified. but what about the fact that detainees will say anything to stop the pain? here's something that was told to me. abu zubaydah's stories sent the c.i.a. around the globe. not a single plot was foiled. we spent millions chasing phantoms. >> rodriguez: bull ( bleep ). he gave us a road map that allowed us to capture a bunch of al qaeda senior leaders. >> stahl: among those leaders-- khalid sheik mohammed. details of his interrogation and what he told the c.i.a. about osama bin laden, next.
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>> stahl: the c.i.a. had the use of a fleet of special aircraft to spirit detainees to its web of black sites across the globe. they were knocked out with sedatives during the flights, and upon arrival, had their heads and beards shaved, and they were placed in sterile underground cells with only an arrow painted on the floor pointing to mecca.
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in total, the c.i.a. picked up about 100 detainees, subjected 75 of them to harsh interrogation techniques, three of them to water-boarding, including khalid sheikh mohammed, or k.s.m., the mastermind of 9/11. when k.s.m. was first captured in 2003, he was in no mood to talk. >> rodriguez: oh, he was not going to talk. i mean, khalid sheik mohammed is one of the toughest killers out there. >> stahl: i heard he was brilliant. >> rodriguez: he was brilliant. he was scary smart. but he's also evil, and he will use that intelligence to define different ways of coming after us. >> stahl: he says that, in the beginning, k.s.m. would respond to questions by reciting verses from the koran. >> rodriguez: he eventually told us, "well, look, i will talk once i get to new york and i get my lawyer." he knew that if he got into the
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criminal process in the u.s. that he would get a lawyer and he would use that forum. >> stahl: he'd use it as a platform for his ideology. >> rodriguez: he would use it as a platform. >> stahl: faced with k.s.m.'s obstinance, c.i.a. interrogators began ratcheting up the severity of the questioning step by step. did you make him wear diapers? >> rodriguez: diapers? i don't recall specifically to him. but diapers is something that is approved. >> stahl: it's so humiliating. >> rodriguez: it's standard. standard, yeah. >> stahl: according to an internal investigation by the c.i.a.'s own inspector general-- this is a heavily redacted declassified copy-- k.s.m. was denied sleep for 180 hours in a row, or about seven and a half days. and still, he didn't break. >> rodriguez: he was the toughest detainee that we had. no doubt. >> stahl: so, he was subjected to water-boarding, specifically,
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183 pourings of water in about half a dozen separate sessions. rodriguez said the average pour lasted ten seconds. >> rodriguez: can i say something about khalid sheikh mohammed? he's the one that was responsible for the death of danny pearl, the wall street reporter. he slit his throat in front of a camera. i don't know what type of man it takes to cut the throat of someone in front of you like that, but i can tell you that this is an individual who probably didn't give a rat's ass about having water poured on his face. >> stahl: he never believed for one second you were going to kill him. >> rodriguez: no. and let me just tell you-- khalid sheikh mohammed would use his fingers to count the number of seconds, because he knew that, in all likelihood, we would stop at ten. so this doesn't sound like a person who is afraid of dying. >> stahl: if he's sitting there counting off, he knows you're not going to kill him. he knows he's not going to drown. then, why do it?
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what's the point? >> rodriguez: well, i think that the cumulative effect of water- boarding and sleep deprivation and everything else that was done eventually got to him. >> stahl: so what happens? does he break down? does he weep? does he fall apart? >> rodriguez: no. he gets a good night's sleep. he gets his ensure. by the way, he was very heavy when he came to us and he lost 50 pounds, so... >> stahl: what, his ensure? you mean, like people in the hospital who drink that stuff? >> rodriguez: yes. dietary manipulation was part of these... our techniques. >> stahl: so sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation. i mean, this is orwellian stuff. the united states doesn't do that. >> rodriguez: well, we do. >> stahl: the question is whether the information they got from k.s.m. was truthful and helpful. in his report, the c.i.a.'s inspector general says that the c.i.a.'s office of medical services concluded that when it came to the water-boarding...
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...there was no reason to think that it had been effective or that it was safe. this is your own inspector general. >> rodriguez: well our own inspector general, in many cases, did very sloppy work. that report is flawed in many different ways. >> stahl: why would they make it up? >> rodriguez: i don't know if it's made up. i don't know if they were advocates. you know, the inspector general himself, he was opposed to this. i mean, but this was the policy. so he was wrong. >> stahl: but many of the tips from detainees reportedly led to blind alleys and expensive wild goose chases. rodriguez maintains the information from k.s.m. and the other detainees enabled the c.i.a. to disrupt at least ten large-scale terrorist plots. would the plots have been stopped without the harsh interrogation techniques? in other words, could it have happened without water-boarding? >> rodriguez: i can't answer
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that question. perhaps. but the issue here was timing. we needed information and we needed it right away to protect the homeland. >> stahl: you told us that the whole rationale, justification for the whole interrogation program was to stop an imminent attack. the inspector general says it didn't stop any imminent attack. >> rodriguez: i submit to you that we don't know. we don't know if, for example, al qaeda would have been able to continue on with their anthrax program, or nuclear program, or the second wave of attacks, or the sleeper agents that they had inside the united states that were working with khalid sheikh mohammed to take down the brooklyn bridge, for example. so, it's easy, years later, to say, "well, you know, no ticking time bomb... nothing was stopped." >> stahl: but the truth is about khalid sheikh mohammed, you really didn't break him. >> rodriguez: why? why do you say that? >> stahl: well, he didn't tell you about osama bin laden. he didn't tell you how to get him.
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he didn't tell you how to find him. >> rodriguez: some of these people were not going to tell us everything. >> stahl: so you don't break them, and they told you lies. >> rodriguez: there is a limit... there is a limit to what they will tell us. >> stahl: actually, k.s.m. lied about the courier, whose identity finally led to the compound in abbottabad, pakistan, where the terrorist leader he calls sheikh bin laden was hiding. now, here's what i heard-- that khalid sheikh mohammed told you the courier had retired and threw you off the scent for a while. >> rodriguez: that was the one secret he was going to take to the grave, and that was the protection of the sheikh. he was not going to tell us. >> stahl: one of the secrets rodriguez had hoped to take to his grave was exposed in 2007-- the c.i.a. had videotaped the interrogation of two of its detainees, including abu zubaydah. >> rodriguez: the reason why we taped abu zubaydah was because we... he was very wounded when
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he was captured, and we feared that he was going to die in captivity. so we wanted to show the world that we actually had nothing to do with his death, that, you know, he died on his own. >> stahl: well, that's ironic. you wanted to have a video record that he was being well treated, but in the end, they became a video record that he had been subjected to these harsh techniques. >> rodriguez: yeah, we weren't hiding anything. >> stahl: but you then ordered these tapes destroyed. >> rodriguez: correct. 92 tapes. >> stahl: 92 tapes. why did you order that they be destroyed? >> rodriguez: to protect the people who worked for me and who were at those black sites and whose faces were shown on the tape. >> stahl: protect them from what? >> rodriguez: protect them from al qaeda ever getting their hands on these tapes and using them to go after them and their families. >> stahl: he was also worried
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about the very survival of the c.i.a.'s dark side, the clandestine service, because of the so- called "abu ghraib" effect. >> rodriguez: i was concerned that the distinction between a legally authorized program, as our enhanced interrogation program was, and illegal activity by a bunch of psychopaths would not be made. >> stahl: he says that c.i.a. lawyers repeatedly asked the white house, justice department, and vice-president's cheney's office for permission to shred the tapes. but... >> rodriguez: nobody was making a decision to proceed. >> stahl: so one day you just said, "the hell with it. i have this authority. i'm going to do it." >> rodriguez: one day, i finally called in my advisers and lawyers and say, "tell me, okay. tell me again that this is legal. and tell me that i have the authority to do this."
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when the answer i received was "yes" and "yes", then i said, "well, i am going to make this decision and do it myself." >> stahl: boom, they were destroyed. >> rodriguez: yes. >> stahl: they were destroyed in an industrial-strength shredder. here's what you write in your book. you took the president's, the vice president's silence on this to mean they were really relieved that you had taken this on yourself and had done it. that's what you write. >> rodriguez: correct. >> stahl: there are people who feel that you did it as a cover- up. >> rodriguez: everything that was on those tapes were authorized activities by the u.s. government, so there was nothing to cover up. >> stahl: yet, after the story broke in the newspapers, the justice department launched a criminal investigation. ultimately, rodriguez was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. by then, the c.i.a.'s inspector general's report was partly
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declassified, detailing some of the program's excesses. mock executions. people threatened with power drills. >> rodriguez: yes. >> stahl: people told that... that you were going to go and hurt their children, rape their wives. >> rodriguez: stupid things that were done by people who had no authority to do that. >> stahl: and they just took it on themselves. >> rodriguez: correct. and we found out about it, and we self-reported and actually called in the i.g. and said, "you better take a look at what these people did and do what you need to do." >> stahl: you have some people out there who were taken to black sites. they were subjected to terrible treatment. and they hadn't done anything. i mean, they were taken mistakenly. they disappeared. what about them? >> rodriguez: no doubt, when you are involved in complicated covert action programs like this one, that some mistakes will be made. >> stahl: rodriguez retired from the c.i.a. in january, 2008. he has spent the last year
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writing his book, published by the cbs company simon and schuster. in the book, he says that, by canceling the interrogation program, president obama has tied the government's hands in the war on terror. >> rodriguez: we don't capture anybody anymore, lesley. you know, their default option of this administration has been to kill all prisoners. take no prisoners. >> stahl: the drones. >> rodriguez: the drones. how could it be more ethical to kill people rather than capture them? i've never understood that one. >> stahl: president obama has said that what we did was torture. >> rodriguez: well, president obama is entitled to his opinion. when president obama condemns the covert action activities of a previous government, he is breaking the covenant that exists between intelligence officers who are at the pointy end of the spear, hanging way
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out there, and the government that authorized them and directed them to go there. >> stahl: john mccain, a huge critic of this program. he had been tortured, so we know where he's coming from. here's what he said: "it's killing us that america will sink to the level of its worst enemies. we forfeited our values," he said. and i guess what i want to ask is, didn't it actually change who we are? what we think we're about? i mean, we think we... we're the country that doesn't do that, right? >> rodriguez: i am very secure in... in what we did and i am very confident that what we did saved american lives. >> stahl: this tuesday is the one-year anniversary of the u.s. special forces raid that resulted in the death of osama bin laden.
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>> safer: what's your poison, your addiction? is it legal or illegal? whatever it is you're hooked on, from coffee to cocaine, smoking pot to pigging out, nora volkow has your number. she's the head of the national institute on drug abuse. for three decades now, volkow has been looking, literally, into the brains of addicts-- not just hard drug users, but smokers and overeaters, too. nobody knows more about how we get hooked and why bad habits are so hard to break.
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dr. volkow grew up in mexico in a family with a famous ancestor and a tragic history. she's made history herself by challenging many of the old ideas about our addiction to addiction. what do you make of that common phrase, "just say no?" >> dr. nora volkow: if it were so easy, i think that we would have no problem with obesity, we would have no problem with drugs. i think we have to be honest. we've all been in a situation where we were tempted by something. and we didn't want to do it, and we didn't have the self-control to stop it. for example, i love chocolates, everybody knows that. and i love, also, coffee. but i'm very wired person, so i shouldn't drink more coffee. but at some times, i cannot resist that. and that is because not always i have the same level of self- control. so saying to someone "just say no" is magical thinking. >> safer: volkow's thinking has revolutionized how science and medicine now view drug
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addiction-- as a disease, not a character defect. her research pinpoints how drugs affect learning, memory, and above all, self-control. >> volkow: we know that drug addiction is a chronic disease. it changes... drugs change the brain, physically change it. and those changes are very long lasting, and persist for a long period of time after the person stops taking the drug. >> okay, ready to go in? >> i'm ready. >> okay, here we go. >> safer: she's been a pioneer in using m.r.i.s-- brain scans-- to figure out the chemistry of addiction. >> remain still and relaxed with just your eyes closed, okay? >> safer: this subject is a recovering heroin addict, one of hundreds of drug abusers volkow and her staff have examined over the years, zeroing in on a critical substance, dopamine. >> volkow: dopamine so happens to be one of the main chemicals regulating pleasure centers in the brain. and as such, it's therefore the mechanism by which nature motivates our behavior.
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>> safer: at the most basic level, dopamine has saved us from extinction by making the key elements for survival of the species, food and sex, pleasurable. dopamine sends signals to receptors in the brain saying, "this feels good." what is it, a hamburger? >> volkow: it's a hamburger. >> safer: show a hungry person a hamburger, and their brain scan shows a dopamine rush. >> volkow: it just basically stimulates release of dopamine. and the more they release, the more they want the food. we always say, "well, why do we have a problem with obesity in our society?" and i said, "my god, we're surrounded by stimuli with which we're conditioned. if you like hamburgers, you may see that mcdonald's yellow arches, and then dopamine goes inside your brain and you want it, and you don't know why you want it. >> safer: and, volkow has found, images of alcohol and drugs produce similar signals which the addict can't resist. >> volkow: when a person is addicted, they get conditioned just like pavlovian dogs.
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>> safer: during a brain scan, a cocaine addict was shown a nature scene. the image created no change in dopamine levels. the same test with a picture of someone using cocaine. result-- a marked rise in dopamine. >> volkow: here, in an addictive person, you're starting to get the conditions stimulated... >> safer: just from a photograph. >> volkow: ...from observing. and that's why drugs are so malignant. you see a stimuli, dopamine goes up in your brain, and that, in turn, drives the behavior of the person to try to get the drug. and that's an unconscious thing. it's not even conscious. >> safer: her budget reflects the urgency of the work-- a billion dollars a year for a wide array of research projects. she was the first to demonstrate how cocaine can damage the brain by triggering small strokes. and she's identified a common trait most addicts share involving receptors, the molecules that receive dopamine signals. >> volkow: we're seeing, consistently, a reduction in the
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levels of these dopamine receptors-- in this case, heroin, alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine, but also marijuana and cigarette smokers. >> safer: problem is, the brain just isn't wired to handle the intense high that drugs give. a kind of shutoff valve kicks in, reducing the number of receptors in the brain that receive dopamine's "feel good" message. >> volkow: what happens with repeated administration of these drugs is that the ability of them to generate a sense of pleasure decreases and decreases and decreases. and there's a point where the person starts to take them, not to feel good but to feel normal. >> safer: and other changes in the brain explain why so many addicts, no matter how hard they try, just can't quit. there is that school of thought that says, "look, all you need is to be strong-willed. your problem is you're weak. show some determination and you can beat this addiction."
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>> volkow: there are certain areas of the brain that are directly implicated in our capacity to exert free will. the frontal cortex is one of them-- crucial, crucial. so, if drugs damage the areas of the brain that we need in order to exert free will, then it's like driving a car without brakes. you don't want to hit someone, but if you don't have brakes, how do you stop the car? one of the areas that's most sensitive to marijuana is the area involved with memory and learning. >> safer: volkow pays particular attention to educating teenagers about the harsh realities of addiction. her agency does a yearly survey of their drug use. the good news is there's been a continuing decline in smoking and drinking. the not-so-good news-- marijuana use remains high, with one out
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of three high school seniors surveyed saying they'd smoked it in the past year. and the really bad news is a massive increase in both teens and adults using prescription painkillers to get high, mainly vicodin, oxycontin and other opiates. >> volkow: you know how many prescriptions there were for opiate medications last year in this country? 210 million prescriptions for opiate medications. 210 million prescriptions in one year. >> safer: that's enough pain pills to keep every adult in the country medicated 24 hours a day for a month. there's been a huge spike in hospital emergency cases, and overdoses from pain pills killed nearly 15,000 people in a year's time. >> volkow: either we're a nation in severe pain or we're over- prescribing. >> safer: when doctors prescribe these very powerful pain medications, do they know what they're doing? >> volkow: being honest, i think that many physicians have not been properly trained on how to
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prescribe opiate medications. >> safer: even as a teenager at mexico's national university, volkow herself was no stranger to the heartbreak addiction has caused to so many families. addiction research became an obsession. >> volkow: as a medical student, i was very frustrated by the fact that people that were addicted to drugs were not dealt with as individuals suffering from a medical disease. and i had seen that actually from my own family because, on my mother's side, there is a family history of alcoholism. and it was never considered that my uncle had actually a medical disease itself. and therefore, he never received the help that could have benefited not just him, but his family. >> safer: and here, our story takes a turn to the house where nora volkow grew up in mexico city, and the most harrowing chapter in her family's grim history.
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>> volkow: this house is extraordinary to live in. but there was, of course, a dark element to it. i was always very conscious of the fact that my great- grandfather had been killed here. >> safer: her great grandfather still stalks world history. he was leon trotsky, the russian revolutionary leader forced into exile after a power struggle with dictator joseph stalin. >> volkow: i remember very clearly being extraordinary scared to go into the room where trotsky was killed. i would not be able to do it in the darkness. something remains there. >> safer: sort of ghosts, in a way. >> volkow: ghosts in our brain, through the memory. >> safer: trotsky arrived in mexico in 1936 with his wife natalia, greeted by the country's most famous artists, diego rivera and frida kahlo. it was a dangerous era for anyone in the trotsky family. >> leon trotsky: it is foolish to hope... >> safer: for his criticism of stalin and his more democratic
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ideas, trotsky's relatives were methodically tracked down by stalinist agents-- imprisoned, shot, hounded into suicide. by the time you came here, how many of your close family had been executed? >> esteban volkow: well, i think most all. >> safer: esteban volkow is nora volkow's father, trotsky's grandson. 73 years ago, he came to live here with trotsky. he was 13 years old, an orphan, his parents victims of the stalinist terror. >> volkow: his mother committed suicide. his father was killed in a concentration camp. he then ended up with trotsky because he was the person that was responsible for him. >> safer: a year after his arrival, in the dead of night, there was a machine gun attack on the house by stalinist agents. trotsky was unhurt. esteban hid behind his bed. >> esteban volkow: they shoot in my bed, yes, about six, seven
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bullets. >> safer: you got hit by one of the bullets. >> esteban volkow: yes, only a scratch, yes. >> safer: watch towers were built on the house. but just three months later, stalin finally got his man. >> esteban volkow: i saw that something strange was happening in the house. >> safer: an assassin made his way into trotsky's office and pierced his skull with an ice axe, august 20, 1940. >> esteban volkow: i came in the library and to a little opening, i could see my grandfather on the floor with natalia. and he was blood around him. and he give the instruction, "keep the boy away. i don't want him to see..." >> safer: he was still conscious? >> esteban volkow: sure, sure. >> safer: doctors did what they could, but trotsky died a day later. he's buried in the family garden. esteban volkow went on to become a chemist who helped develop the birth control pill.
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nora volkow was born 15 years after trotsky's death, addicted since childhood to the pursuit of science. >> patricia volkow: there was a christmas that the only doll was for me, and there was a microscope that was for her, okay? >> safer: she has three sisters: veronica, a writer; patricia, a doctor in a public hospital; and natalia, a government statistician. >> natalia volkow: i think, yes, we all have this sense of public service, social consciousness, responsibility towards not only yourself as individual, but for your society. >> safer: are you proud of the accomplishments of your kids? >> esteban volkow: more or less. ( laughter ) >> safer: the road from the house of ghosts in mexico has taken nora volkow to a place of influence in washington. she starts each day with a seven-mile run, getting a healthy dose of dopamine. and looking forward down the road, she sees a day when science might banish the curse
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of addiction. >> nora volkow: a cure would be fantastic. and that means you get a medication like an antibiotic. i cure you. >> safer: volkow's labs and others around the country are working to develop vaccines to block drugs from entering the brain. the complexities are enormous and progress is slow. >> nora volkow: we're not there yet, but perhaps one day, we may be. and in my brain, if you don't dare to think very ambitious things, you'll never be there. now you can brew over ice for delicious iced coffee or tea. hot or cold, keurig is the way to brew everyone's favorite cup in under a minute. choose, brew, enjoy. keurig.
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