Given the brevity of the “NBC Nightly News” broadcast, anchor Brian Williams is most effective when he asks his interviewees short, direct questions. Such effectiveness came alive last night, when Williams was interviewing former CIA director Michael Hayden, whose truthfulness and leadership came under direct attack in yesterday’s Senate intelligence committee report on CIA interrogation tactics. The Washington Post even compiled a handy graphic comparing Hayden’s testimony on these matters vs. the report’s findings.

In his interview with Williams, Hayden defended the methods: “As bad as some people think CIA behavior was with regard to these 100 or so detainees, if everyone on the planet used CIA behavior as the model, the overall treatment of detainees on earth would actually improve.”

The perfect comeback from Williams: “Should that be the standard, however?”

Hayden answered: “Well, Brian, the standard was, what is lawful, effective and appropriate at a time of great extremists in the United States with 3,000 fellow citizens who’ve been murdered.”

Then this happened:

Williams: What if you, God forbid, members of your family had to undergo some of the treatments we’re reading about in this report. Can you personalize it in that way?
Hayden: Clearly, look, Brian, we’re people like you and all your viewers. We have a soul and a conscience, too. We knew as bad as these people were, we were doing this to fellow human beings, so don’t ever forget that. Now you ask me about my family members. I actually think, Brian, that my concern or my outrage, if that were ever done to any of my family members, would be somewhat muted if my family members had just killed 3,000 of my citizens.

Bold text added to trigger this bit of context regarding the treatment of detainee Abu Zubaida: “Then, at 11:50 a.m. on Aug. 4, 2002, the CIA launched a round-the-clock interrogation assault [against Abu Zubaida] — slamming him against walls, stuffing him into a coffin-size box and waterboarding him until he coughed, vomited, and had ‘involuntary spasms of the torso and extremities,’ ” wrote The Post. “The treatment continued for 17 days. At one point, the waterboarding left Abu Zubaida ‘completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.'”