Former CIA general counsel gives talk on post-9/11 policy

Hayden Clark

John Rizzo, former acting general counsel for the CIA, spoke Tuesday at the LBJ School of Public Affairs about his role in post 9/11 CIA actions, which included approving advanced interrogation techniques. 

During the talk, Rizzo spoke about his book, “Company Man,” which focuses on his 34-year career in the CIA. Rizzo said that he hopes readers will come away with better knowledge of what happened during the years following September 11, 2001. According to Rizzo, controversial actions were taken for the protection of Americans.   

“I’d like those who read the book to come away with an understanding of those post, especially those immediate post-9/11 years, and the decisions that we all had to make,” Rizzo said. “[For] me personally, [they] were very difficult decisions. They weren’t matters we enter in so lightly, but that, for the sake of the nation, to protect the nation from another catastrophic attack we felt we had to take, and I know some people will always questions the wisdom of some of those measures.”

Government senior Vineet Surapaneni said that the CIA’s handling of the questionable interrogation tactics made them vulnerable to criticism.

“From what I remember, it didn’t seem like it was handled particularly well by the CIA or the administration,” Surapaneni said. “It was like a dual approach they were set in that they were continuing with the interrogation techniques, but then they weren’t open to criticism at all or any form. They would just immediately say ‘national security’ and sort of clam up.”

Robert Chesney, law professor and associate dean of academic affairs for the law school, said Rizzo’s memoir gives readers unique insight to the CIA’s operations during his time as a lawyer in the CIA. 

“This book provides a really indispensable perspective on what it looked like from the inside of the CIA legal advisors offices, which is obviously a terribly important perspective to have,” Chesney said. “Some people are going to read this and be very unhappy with what he has to say. Other people are going to love it.”   

Rizzo said the lawyers he hired in his wake at the CIA were his most important legacies.

“During my time, I hired 100 new lawyers for CIA, people from the outside,” Rizzo said. “The legacy that I left behind when I retired from CIA is two generations of very, very smart [and] very careful lawyers.”