CIA’s top spy: No losses from waterboarding ban
Michael Sulick, head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, told a student audience last week that the spy agency has seen no fall-off in intelligence since waterboarding was banned by the Obama administration.
"I don’t think we’ve suffered at all from an intelligence standpoint," Sulick told students and some faculty members at Fordham University, his alma mater, on March 25. "But I don’t want to talk about [it from] a legal, moral or ethical standpoint."
According to the university’s news service, Sulick said it was tough for any U.S. agencies dealing with terrorism to balance security and civil liberties.
"If you're a civil servant in any agency dealing with national security issues, you have to grapple with these conflicts," said Sulick, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Fordham in Russian studies and a Ph.D. from the City University of New York. He joined the CIA in 1980.
"It’s not easy,” Sulick said. “You’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."
Sulick’s National Clandestine Service employs 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.
But the career operative said he’s no James Bond.
"I do not drive a Jaguar or a Bentley with special gadgets. My watch does not have a laser or a microphone."
"At the same time …” he added, “there is an enormous thrill when you’re out meeting a spy and he or she gives you that one piece of information that answers some critical question the United States government needs to know. I can’t think of any nobler public service than that, and I guess that’s why I’ve been doing it for three decades."
Sulick received a standing ovation, according to Debra Sweet, and antiwar activist who attended the event.
Also attending the event was Fordham graduate Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst and founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, an organization critical of the CIA.
“After a lengthy prologue, McGovern, who was not scheduled to speak, pointed out the disconnect between the Catholic faith and the CIA’s killing of innocents around the world in pursuit of terrorists,” the university’s public relations office reported.
“McGovern claimed that the CIA arbitrarily distinguishes between what he labeled ‘good terrorists and bad terrorists.’”
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
| April 1, 2010; 10:04 PM ET
Tags: CIA's dirty tricks, Catholics and torture, Fordham University, Michael Sulick, National Clandestine Service, Obama's waterboarding ban, balancing civil liberties and security, morality of drone attacks, spying challenges, torture, waterboarding
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