John A. Rizzo (born 1948) was a lawyer at the Central Intelligence Agency for 34 years. He was the acting General Counsel or Deputy Counsel of the CIA for the first nine years of the War on Terror, during which the CIA held dozens of detainees in black site prisons around the globe. "Enhanced interrogation techniques" were approved by the George W. Bush administration's Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice in memos to Rizzo for use by CIA interrogators at the black sites. Rizzo signed off on all CIA-directed drone strikes from September 2001 until October 2009.
He is a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Senior Counsel at the Steptoe & Johnson law firm.
A Boston native, Rizzo attended college at Brown University. He earned a law degree from George Washington University Law School.
He was hired at the CIA in 1976, just after the Church Committee released its report on the assassination of foreign leaders. By 1979, Rizzo became the staff lawyer for the Directorate of Operations, the CIA's clandestine branch. In the 1980s, Rizzo served as the liaison between the CIA and the congressional investigators looking into the Iran-Contra affair. In November 2001, Rizzo became acting General Counsel, a position that was traditionally filled by someone from outside the CIA. He was the acting General Counsel of the CIA from late 2001 to late 2002 and from mid 2004 until late 2009. He was Deputy General Counsel in the interim period from 2002 to 2004.
Rizzo was nominated to be General Counsel of the CIA in mid 2007, but Democratic Senator Ron Wyden (OR) blocked his confirmation by the Senate Intelligence Committee due to Rizzo's involvement in approving the CIA's interrogation practices. The Bush administration withdrew his nomination, however Rizzo continued to serve as acting General Counsel until his retirement in October 2009.
Enhanced interrogation techniques
The first high-value detainee, Abu Zubaydah, was captured in Pakistan on March 28, 2002 and taken to a CIA black site prison in Thailand. Originally interrogated using confidence-building techniques by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the CIA personnel and contractors at the black site wanted to use more coercive techniques because they believed Zubaydah was withholding information. One FBI agent called this treatment "borderline torture." FBI agents were pulled from the interrogations in early June.
The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, which ran the U.S. military's SERE program to train U.S. personnel to resist harsh interrogation methods, issued a memo with an attachment written to the Pentagon's Office of General Counsel in July 2002. The memo, which was passed on from the OGC to Rizzo, referred to the use of extreme duress on detainees as "torture" and warned that it would produce "unreliable information."
Rizzo sent a request to the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel for an opinion whether certain interrogation techniques would violate the prohibition against torture. The OLC issued a memo signed by Jay S. Bybee to Rizzo on August 1, 2002. It approved 10 techniques, including waterboarding.
Rizzo traveled with David Addington, William Haynes and Michael Chertoff to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in late September 2002. One week later, a CIA lawyer told personnel with the military intelligence interrogation team at Guantanamo that "if the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong."
After an internal review of the interrogation videotapes by CIA lawyers in 2005, Rizzo asked the OLC for new statements about the legality of the enhanced interrogation techniques. The Los Angeles Times reported that Rizzo was becoming "increasingly anxious in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks that agency employees were being pressured to use methods that might later place them in legal jeopardy." The OLC issued three memos signed by Steven G. Bradbury in May 2005 that stated the techniques did not violate the Convention Against Torture.
The New York Times reported that in 2005, Rizzo traveled with other CIA officials, including Kyle Foggo, to several black sites, assuring CIA employees that their activities were legal.
In late 2005, the CIA interrogation program was halted by CIA Director Porter Goss based on advice from Rizzo. After the Supreme Court's 2006 ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Bush administration decided that the CIA black sites could not be maintained indefinitely. Rizzo told his colleagues that the program was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.
Videotapes of early interrogation sessions at Black Site
In early 2005, White House Counsel Harriet Miers told Rizzo not to destroy the tapes without checking with the White House first. Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., the chief lawyer of the Directorate of Operations, sent a cable to the CIA's Bangkok station ordering the destruction of the tapes on November 8, 2005. Rodriguez informed Goss and Rizzo of the destruction on November 10.
Targeting of drone strikes
Rizzo signed off on all CIA directed drone strikes from the start of the program soon after September 11, 2001 until his retirement in October 2009. He claims to have seen one "request for approval for targeting for lethal operation" per month and that roughly 30 individuals were targeted at any given time.
In July 2011, the human rights group Reprieve and Pakistani lawyers called for the prosecution of Rizzo in Pakistan for murder for approving drone attacks that killed hundreds of people.
In November 2011, the National Journal cited unnamed sources in reporting that the Department of Justice had opened an investigation of Rizzo for improperly disclosing classified information about the CIA drone program. The probe was first opened by Rizzo's former office, the General Counsel of the CIA, in March 2011 after a detailed interview Rizzo gave Newsweek. The General Counsel's office forwarded evidence it collected to the DOJ that spring.
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- ^ Bybee, Jay S. (August 1, 2002). "Memorandum for John Rizzo". ACLU. http://media.luxmedia.com/aclu/olc_08012002_bybee.pdf. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
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- ^ Miller, Greg; Meyer, Josh (April 17, 2009). "Obama assures intelligence officials they won't be prosecuted over interrogations". Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2009/apr/17/nation/na-interrogation17. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
- ^ Bradbury, Steven G. (May 10, 2005). "Memorandum for John Rizzo". ACLU. http://media.luxmedia.com/aclu/olc_05102005_bradbury46pg.pdf. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
- ^ Bradbury, Steven G. (May 10, 2005). "Memorandum for John Rizzo". ACLU. http://media.luxmedia.com/aclu/olc_05102005_bradbury_20pg.pdf. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
- ^ Bradbury, Steven G. (May 30, 2005). "Memorandum for John Rizzo". ACLU. http://media.luxmedia.com/aclu/olc_05302005_bradbury.pdf. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
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- ^ a b Ambinder, Marc; Dreazen, Yochi J (November 10, 2011). "Former Top CIA Lawyer Under Investigation". National Journal. http://www.nationaljournal.com/former-top-cia-lawyer-under-investigation-20111110. Retrieved November 28, 2011.
- "July 13, 2002 fax from John Yoo to John Rizzo regarding torture statute". ACLU. http://www.aclu.org/files/torturefoia/released/082409/olcremand/2004olc49.pdf.
- "Counterterrorism Detention and Interrogation Activities (September 2001 to December 2003)". CIA Office of Inspector General. New York Times. May 7, 2004. http://s3.amazonaws.com/nytdocs/docs/50/50.pdf. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
- "C.I.A. Records: Guidelines for Interrogators". New York Times. December 2004. http://documents.nytimes.com/c-i-a-reports-guidelines-for-interrogators. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
- "CIA General Counsel - Events involving treatment of detainees". New York Times. June 20, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/06/20/washington/20intel_graphic.html. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
- "The C.I.A. Tapes". New York Times. December 29, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/12/29/world/20071230_INTEL_GRAPHIC.html. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
- Shane, Scott; Mazzetti, Mark (August 25, 2009). "Report Shows Tight C.I.A. Control on Interrogations". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/26/us/26prison.html. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
- Pincus, Walter (May 11, 2010). "Irony isn't lost on retired CIA general counsel John Rizzo". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/10/AR2010051004573.html. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
- Mckelvey, Tara (February 13, 2011). "Inside the Killing Machine". Newsweek. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/02/13/inside-the-killing-machine.html. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
- "John Rizzo: The Lawyer Who Approved CIA’s Most Controversial Programs". PBS Frontline. June 21, 2011. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/iraq-war-on-terror/topsecretamerica/john-rizzo-the-lawyer-who-approved-cias-most-controversial-programs/. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
- "John Rizzo: CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation "Necessary and Effective"". PBS Frontline. September 8, 2011. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/iraq-war-on-terror/the-interrogator/john-rizzo-cias-enhanced-interrogation-necessary-and-effective/. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
- Priest, Dana; Arkin, William M. (September 6, 2011). "Inside the CIA’s "Kill List"". Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State. ISBN 978-0-316-18221-8. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/iraq-war-on-terror/topsecretamerica/inside-the-cias-kill-list/. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
- The ethics and law of international counterterrorism: The challenges of the next 10 years on YouTube
- Rizzo, John A. (March 30, 2012). "The CIA-Congress War". Defining Ideas. http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas/article/112491.
- "John Rizzo tag on firedoglake". http://firedoglake.com/tag/john-rizzo/.
- "John Rizzo tag on emptywheel". http://www.emptywheel.net/tag/john-rizzo/.