Almost immediately after taking office, President Obama signed an executive order barring “the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods beyond those permitted by the U.S. military.” Critics, such as former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, have argued that Obama’s order has cost U.S. interrogators “any tools at our disposal” to “compel” information out of terrorist captures. But in a talk at Fordham University last week, Michael Sulick, the director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, said the U.S. hasn’t “suffered at all” because of the decision to ban waterboarding:
Sulick followed his lecture with a lengthy question-and-answer session, although he prefaced it by saying he would not comment on any issue that might influence policy. Questions were submitted by Fordham students in advance and read aloud by USG members. When asked if the Obama administration’s ban on waterboarding has had serious consequences on the war against terror, Sulick answered in general terms.
“I don’t think we’ve suffered at all from an intelligence standpoint,” he said, “but I don’t want to talk about [it from] a legal, moral or ethical standpoint.”
The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein writes that Sulick is in charge of “the CIA’s spy handlers, counterspies and covert action specialists — the so-called ‘dirty tricks’ people- — along with some elements of the FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency.” Spencer Ackerman notes that “for the record, it was the Bush administration that actually banned waterboarding after using it to horrific effect, a fact that has caused no end of cognitive dissonance in conservative torture advocates.”