But policies put in place by the very administration that presided over this splendid success promise fewer such successes in the future. Those policies make it unlikely that we'll be able to get information from those whose identities are disclosed by the material seized from bin Laden. The administration also hounds our intelligence gatherers in ways that can only demoralize them. . . .
Immediately following the killing of bin Laden, the issue of interrogation techniques became in some quarters the "dirty little secret" of the event. But as disclosed in the declassified memos in 2009, the techniques are neither dirty nor, as noted by Director Hayden and others, were their results little. As the memoranda concluded—and as I concluded reading them at the beginning of my tenure as attorney general in 2007—the techniques were entirely lawful as the law stood at the time the memos were written, and the disclosures they elicited were enormously important. That they are no longer secret is deeply regrettable.
It is debatable whether the same techniques would be lawful under statutes passed in 2005 and 2006—phrased in highly abstract terms such as "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment—that some claimed were intended to ban waterboarding even though the Senate twice voted down proposals to ban the technique specifically. It is, however, certain that intelligence-gathering rather than prosecution must be the first priority, and that we need a classified interrogation program administered by the agency best equipped to administer it: the CIA.