The CIA Doesn't Need Waterboarding

Greg Sargent yesterday highlighted a story that deserves more attention. Speaking at Fordham University, Michael Sulick, Director of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, said that the prohibition on waterboarding hasn't affected the agency's ability to gather intelligence, saying, "I don’t think we’ve suffered at all from an intelligence standpoint."

Can we finally put to rest the lie that torturing is necessary to collecting intelligence? Waterboarding—long considered a form of torture—is clearly illegal. Although we used it on hundreds of prisoners anyway, as I've written before, there is no evidence it has given us useful intelligence. Those who said it had typically cited John Kiriakou, a former CIA operative who told ABC that it worked wonders on Abu Zubaydah. But Kiriakou has since admitted that he wasn't at any of the interrogations and had no firsthand knowledge of whether waterboarding worked. Meanwhile, legal interrogations have—in spite of what Liz Cheney says—been very effective. Sulick, who is in charge of human intelligence gathering at the CIA, acknowledges a need to balance concerns about the way we treat prisoners with concerns about our safety. But he now nevertheless confirms that not being able to waterboard hasn't hampered our ability to gather intelligence "at all."

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