President Obama's ban on waterboarding hasn't hampered US intelligence efforts "at all," one of the CIA's top officials said to an audience of students last week.
During a question-and-answer session, Sulick was asked if the Obama administrationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ban on waterboarding had repercussions for the war against terror.
"I don't think we've suffered at all from an intelligence standpoint," Sulick said in a March 25 lecture at Fordham University, his alma mater. "But I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to talk about [it from] a legal, moral or ethical standpoint."
Obama drew immediate criticism after taking office for ending Bush-era interrogation tactics that include waterboarding, an act considered torture by the international community.
Sulick, head of the CIAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s National Clandestine Service, said it was difficult for US agencies dealing with terrorism to balance security with civil rights.
"If you're a civil servant in any agency dealing with national security issues, you have to grapple with these conflicts," said Sulick, who joined the CIA in 1980.
"ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not easy. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re faced with defending the public trust and are often faced with difficult decisions that affect the public good. Sometimes there are merits on both sides."
"We have to find some way to achieve that balance," he added. "We have to find the common ground between maintaining our values and safeguarding Americans."
Many GOP leaders, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, said the country was less safe without waterboarding as an option. Former Bush adviser Karl Rove said recently that waterboarding "saved lives."
"I'm proud that we used techniques that broke the will of these terrorists and gave us valuable information that allowed us to foil plots such as flying aeroplanes into Heathrow and into London, bringing aircraft down over the Pacific, flying an aeroplane into the tallest building in Los Angeles and other plots," Rove said.
Several writers have already pounced on Sulick's statement as conclusive evidence that banning torture was the right decision.
"Can we finally put to rest the lie that torturing is necessary to collecting intelligence?" asked the writer of Big Think. "WaterboardingÃ¢â‚¬â€long considered a form of tortureÃ¢â‚¬â€is clearly illegal. Although we used it on hundreds of prisoners anyway ... there is no evidence it has given us useful intelligence."