Washington Calling news reports "wrong and irresponsible," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld denied Wednesday that officials are considering torture as a way to get information out of captured al-Qaida leader Abu Zubaydah.
"Reports to that effect are wrong, inaccurate, not happening and will not happen," he said. "He will be properly interrogated by proper people who know how to do those things."
Rumsfeld was responding to reports that Abu Zubaydah, captured Thursday in Pakistan, might be sent to a third country that uses more harsh interrogation techniques than allowed in the United States.
"I saw on television, and that is wrong and irresponsible," Rumsfeld said.
He declined to say where Abu Zubaydah is being held or who is questioning him, but implied he was in the custody of some other U.S. agency such as the CIA or FBI.
"We will be responsible for that interrogation not we the Department of Defense, we the United States of America," he said.
Believed to be the most important al-Qaida figure captured in the anti-terror war, Abu Zubaydah is one of Osama bin Laden's senior operational planners and a recruiter and was said to be planning new terrorist attacks.
As the intermediary between bin Laden's inner circle and foreign terrorist cells, Abu Zubaydah is believed to know the names, faces and locations of operatives worldwide.
Officials say that if he cooperates, he could provide information useful for preventing future attacks.
Even if he doesn't cooperate, his capture strikes a blow to al-Qaida because it takes away a main organizer, officials said. Since the fall of the Taliban, Abu Zubaydah and former Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani have been driving an attempt to reconstitute al-Qaida in Pakistan.
"I am saying we have him, he is under U.S. control at the present time," Rumsfeld said. "We are responsible for him. He is receiving medical care. And we intend to get every single thing out of him to try to prevent terrorist acts in the future."