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Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA
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Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA [Format Kindle]

John Rizzo

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Company Man


The Tale of the “Torture” Tapes

In early November 2010, the Justice Department announced its decision not to bring obstruction-of-justice charges against the CIA officials who had been involved in the decision, five years earlier, to destroy videotapes depicting the Agency’s 2002 interrogation of an Al Qaeda operative named Abu Zubaydah. He was not just any terrorist thug. Zubaydah was a senior figure in the Al Qaeda hierarchy at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and he had been the CIA’s first significant “catch” in the post-9/11 era. As such, he was also the first high-level Osama bin Laden lieutenant to be spirited off to one of the Agency’s newly constructed covert detention facilities—what would come to be infamously known around the world as “the CIA’s secret prisons.” Zubaydah had another dubious distinction: He was the first CIA detainee ever to be waterboarded. The CIA had captured it all on videotape. Three years later, the Agency burned the tapes.

The Justice Department criminal investigation into the tapes’ destruction, which lasted almost three years, was led by John Durham, a career federal prosecutor from Connecticut brought in specifically for the task. He was appointed in December 2007, shortly after the New York Times broke the story in a series of page 1 articles by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane. The series ignited an immediate firestorm in the media and Congress. As the Times accurately reported, no one in the CIA had ever told anyone in Congress that it had destroyed the tapes.

It was a hell of a story about a hell of a mess. And I knew it better than anyone, since I was the only member of the CIA’s top leadership to have been part of the episode from the beginning to just about its end. I was the Agency’s chief legal advisor for most of the eight years encompassing the story. The tale of the tapes’ destruction and its aftermath bedeviled me right up to the time of my retirement from the CIA in December 2009, after more than thirty years of service. The saga ended for me only when Justice announced there would be no indictments.

For the first three years, I fended off repeated entreaties from my Agency colleagues that I approve destroying the tapes, only to have them go behind my back and destroy them anyway in 2005. Then, after the story exploded in the media, I was the only CIA official to be hauled before Congress and grilled—alone—by two dozen angry lawmakers. Two years later, in September 2009, I had to testify for seven hours before a grand jury convened by the prosecutor, Durham.

The case was still hanging over me when I left the Agency for good two months later. In a long career fraught with dealing with controversies, it was the final one, and it was unfinished business. And so I could not drift gently, at long last, into a peaceful retirement. Would I be called back to testify before Congress? Before the grand jury? Would I be prosecuted for something I said, or something I did, somewhere along the way?

The November 2010 Justice Department announcement that there would be no indictments brought me a mixed range of emotions. First, of course, I felt a huge sense of belated relief. At the same time, it seemed oddly anticlimactic—by November 2010, the tapes’ destruction was old news, a distant if unpleasant memory.

Finally, it all struck me as very ironic. The entire affair, long and tortuous as it turned out to be, had begun for me way back at a time when I thought I was getting out of the line of fire at the CIA.


In October 2002, my nearly one-year tour of duty as acting general counsel was coming to a close. The Senate had just confirmed Scott Muller as the new CIA general counsel.

By this time, twenty-five years into my CIA career, I had “broken in” a number of incoming general counsels, so I had the drill down pat: The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) staff prepared briefing books containing summaries of key classified policy and legal documents as well as ongoing programs (per standard procedure, no incoming GC had access to classified information before reporting for duty), and I put together a list of the “hot” items that the new guy would have to confront the day he arrived on the job.

I felt a profound sense of relief about passing the Agency’s legal baton. Barely a year after 9/11, I could have put fifty items on the “hot” list. It seemed like every day we were facing a new, imminent Al Qaeda threat. And we had been operating in an entirely new and perilous legal terrain, capturing, brutally interrogating, and conducting lethal operations against senior Al Qaeda figures. I didn’t want Scott totally overwhelmed on his first day of work, so I was determined to keep the list short.

A couple of weeks before he arrived in November 2002, however, I learned about something I had no choice but to add to the list. Three months earlier, CIA officers, in a secret Agency detention facility overseas, began videotaping the first top Al Qaeda operative in our custody. He was also the first terrorist subjected to the Agency’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs). The sessions were captured on the tapes, apparently in graphic detail. Jose Rodriguez, the chief of our Counterterrorist Center (CTC), came to me seeking permission to destroy the tapes. Immediately.


The story began in March 2002, when the CIA and its Pakistani counterparts, with a combination of meticulous intelligence work and good luck, captured a senior Al Qaeda operative named Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan’s third-largest city, Faisalabad. It didn’t come off quietly—there was a furious gun battle, and Zubaydah was shot three times. The Agency rushed a team of doctors from Johns Hopkins to Pakistan to save his life. It was hardly a humanitarian gesture; our intelligence indicated that Zubaydah was Al Qaeda’s main logistics planner for attacks against the United States. The CIA was desperate to keep him alive in order to find out what he knew about any upcoming attacks. This was barely six months after 9/11, and the government was still seized with dread about another horrific strike coming any day.

Zubaydah pulled through, and as soon as the doctors determined he was well enough to travel, he was whisked from Pakistan to the first of a succession of overseas detention facilities that would eventually enter into the public lexicon as “black sites” or “secret prisons.” Zubaydah, a young, smart, cold-blooded, unrepentant psychopath, was the first really “big fish” the Agency had caught post-9/11. Soon after the questioning began, CIA inquisitors became convinced, based on his smug and arrogant responses, that he knew a lot more than he was telling about Al Qaeda’s terrorist plans. By early April 2002, the Agency, lacking other options and desperate to stop another cataclysmic attack, made the fateful decision to explore tougher methods to try to get Zubaydah to talk. This was how the “enhanced interrogation program” came to be, along with yet another word soon to enter the public lexicon: waterboarding.

Later in the book I will provide an eyewitness narrative of the period from April through July 2002, when the Agency conceived the EIT program, which I shepherded through policy review at the White House and legal review at the Justice Department. This process culminated on August 1, when the Justice Department issued to me the first of what would come to be known infamously as the “torture memos,” which legally approved waterboarding and other brutal interrogation tactics against Zubaydah. After I received the Justice memo, the waterboarding of Zubaydah began, with my knowledge and concurrence.

What I didn’t know then and wouldn’t know until two months later was the decision—I could never determine whether someone at CIA Headquarters or in the field with Zubaydah came up with the idea—to videotape Zubaydah around the clock while he was in custody, including periods of interrogation. When he first told me about the videotaping in October 2002, Jose offered two reasons. First, our people at the interrogation site wanted to make sure everything Zubaydah said was recorded and preserved. They were taking careful and copious contemporaneous notes, which were duly transcribed in cables sent back to CIA Headquarters every day, but they were terrified they might miss something. It’s important to note here that, prior to 9/11, the CIA had never in my quarter-century experience held and questioned anyone incommunicado. In a popular culture steeped with films, TV shows, and potboiler spy novels portraying the CIA as a no-holds-barred instrument of mayhem, this may be hard for an outsider to believe. But it’s true. The videotaping was seen not just as a reference tool but as a security blanket.

The other reason Jose gave me for the decision to videotape Zubaydah was more basic: His people didn’t want the SOB to die on them. CIA medical personnel at the detention facility monitored Zubaydah round the clock, but he was about to face some very tough interrogation in the most solitary of confinements. If Zubaydah were to die in captivity, who would believe—either inside or outside the CIA—that they weren’t to blame? Videotaping Zubaydah in captivity would cover their asses.

After several days of taping, however, everyone who had bought into the idea looked at the videotapes, compared them with the not...

Revue de presse

“CIA Directors have come and gone over the past several decades. There were two constants at the agency: crises and John Rizzo in the Office of General Counsel helping to manage them. A larger than life character, with great style, nobody worked harder to protect the nation and the men and women of CIA than John Rizzo. Company Man offers fresh insights into the some of the most highly debated national security issues of our time, from the perspective of an honest and dedicated public servant. It is a must read for those trying to understand some very important moments in the history of the CIA.” (George J. Tenet, Former Director of Central Intelligence)

“A wonderful book by a man who was in the eye of the storm for thirty-four years. Told with humor and unfailing appreciation for the politics of espionage, Company Man is the best book out there on the modern CIA.” (Robert Baer, New York Times-bestselling author of See No Evil and The Perfect Kill)

“John Rizzo has seen it all in his 30 years as a CIA lawyer, and he tells the truth in this absorbing, well-written memoir of his life as a Company Man. Think of Tom Hagen, the Corleone family lawyer in "The Godfather," and you begin to get the flavor of what Rizzo had seen and heard. He draws vivid portraits of the agency's great characters and their sometimes outrageous schemes. The best thing about the book is that you sense Rizzo never stopped being a lawyer or trying to give his clients good, straight-up advice. If you're interested in the inside life of the CIA, read this book!” (David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and New York Times-bestselling author of Body of Lies)

"John Rizzo, formerly the CIA's top attorney, has superbly captured the scope of his fascinating career in Company Man. Not only does he cover the major espionage and covert action of the decades he served, he also conveys an enduring and critical lesson for all liberal democracies--the centrality of the rule of law at the nexus of foreign policy and intelligence. John, who always provided clear and honest counsel to the CIA's Clandestine Service, has crafted an important book with the same sense of intellectual integrity and duty." (Ambassador Henry A. Crumpton, New York Times-bestselling author of The Art of Intelligence, Chairman & CEO of Crumpton Group LLC and 24-year veteran of the CIA's Clandestine Ser)

“When the CIA was in trouble, big trouble, it called John… Rizzo knows where the bodies are buried because he helped stash them. Company Man reads like the CIA's conscience: what the CIA was thinking as it shifted from collecting information to killing terrorists after 9/11. Why did the CIA violently interrogate suspects and then destroy the evidence? Rizzo knows, and he's talking.” (Richard Engel, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent and author of War Journal)

Company Man is simply the most revealing insider account to date of the top ranks of the CIA during its most historic--and controversial--era. There is news and humor in every chapter. Frankly, I often found myself wondering why the CIA's pre-publication censors signed off on some of it.” (Dana Priest, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post and co-author of Top S)

“[A] lively memoir of life and work inside the nation’s intelligence headquarters.” (Publisher's Weekly)

“Under seven presidents and 11 different CIA directors, Rizzo rose to become the CIA’s most powerful career attorney… [he] accumulated more than 30 years of war stories, and he tells most of them…[Rizzo] clearly loved his job and, readers conclude, served the agency and his country well.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Must reading for today’s political junkies…. As insider looks go, this one is about as close-up as you can get.” (Booklist)

“[A] revealing and funny memoir…. Rizzo provides a clear, detailed account of his decision-making and his role in the C.I.A.’s interrogation program…. Rizzo’s memoir is an important contribution.” (Steve Coll The New Yorker “Daily Comment”)

“Revealing… Whatever conclusion you draw, Rizzo's book makes an important contribution to history and the debate over interrogation…. Company Man is tailor-made for CIA buffs. Rizzo's career as an agency lawyer spanned the decades from Iran-Contra to drones, with Russian turncoat Aldrich Ames, the rise of al-Qaida…. His book manages to strike notes that are both earnest and candid. That alone sets Company Man apart in the genre.” (Matt Apuzzo Associated Press)

"A gripping story." (New York Times Book Review)

"Both students and lay readers of American politics should find considerable value in this memoir." (Library Journal)

"Rizzo's memoir often reads like a good spy novel." (Andrea Mitchell, NBC's Today Show)

“A gripping, affecting and revelatory story.” (The Age (Australia))

“John Rizzo takes readers deep inside Langley.... Informative and mordantly witty, [Rizzo] … reveals fascinating details … and does not hesitate to peer into the future with an insider’s prediction that ought to command our attention.” (Boston Globe)

"Few books have this scope or insider perspective on the CIA. Rizzo seems to have been there for everything — from Iran-contra to Valerie Plame to the arrival of President Obama. And that makes Company Man a front-row seat on the hidden world of intelligence over the past 30 years.... Rizzo rose from humble beginnings to become a fixture in national intelligence.... An atlas to navigate the dark, murky morality that governs the business of intelligence." (Dina Temple-Raston Washington Post)

"Emphatically a book for anyone who cares about the security of this country and about how the political classes treat those charged with protecting it." (Michael Mukasey Wall Street Journal)

“Anyone who reads spy novels or political thrillers will find the real-life version of both in this book… A big, important story, covering many years of our country's secret history. It's told well; it's gripping and intense and feels like the truth. Rizzo has a knack for turning events into story, for bypassing hysteria and discovering history.” (Bookotron)

“Fascinating and insightful… A unique and refreshing perspective… a surprising page-turner.” (Fredericksburg Freelance Star)

“Rizzo saw and heard a lot. The astonishing roster of his bosses begins with William Colby, followed by George H.?W. Bush, Stansfield Turner, William Casey, William Webster, Robert Gates, James Woolsey, John Deutch, George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Leon Panetta. Rizzo’s portraits of these individuals in action—some of them legendary figures in the history of American espionage—make this memoir worth the price of admission. But Company Man also holds interest for the light it sheds on a variety of quasi-secret subjects, some of them highly controversial.” (Gabriel Schoenfeld The Weekly Standard)

“[A] remarkable career… Rizzo is a good story-teller… I liked this book very much …. one man whose story is wrapped up in the many twists and turns of the CIA’s modern history of triumph, failure, and scandal, and whose personal story offers an important window into why those triumphs, failures, and scandals probably can’t ever be separated.” (Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare Blog)

“An exceptionally valuable resource. What this book does well, among other things, is explain the inner workings of the processes of the most controversial CIA programs of the past decade…. Reading John Rizzo’s book, and being more familiar with the scope of law within the area of national security law would help citizens and reporters to process the actions and accusations of our nation’s elected and appointed leaders…. Company Man is an excellent read." (Tobias T. Gibson, Law and Politics Book Review)

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  • Format : Format Kindle
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  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 337 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 1451673930
  • Editeur : Scribner (7 janvier 2014)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
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Amazon.com: 3.8 étoiles sur 5  58 commentaires
51 internautes sur 52 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Read it for the interrogation expose, stay for the history 9 janvier 2014
Par Raymond - Publié sur Amazon.com
I heard about Rizzo's book on NPR, and then read the excerpt from it on Politico. His revelations about how the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (AKA what some call torture) came to be approved by the CIA and Justice Department is getting lots of attention. No matter where you fall politically, Rizzo's account is pretty gripping. What would you do, as a CIA lawyer, in a post-9/11 environment, if your operatives came to you and said, "We need these methods to get vital information." But beyond the War on Terror chapters, this is really a history of the CIA over the past 30 years. Rizzo sheds light on a range of fascinating CIA moments (and outrageous miscues), from Iran Contra, to Aldrich Ames, to Valerie Plame and dozens of others. He may not have been a spy operating out of some far flung outpost, but Rizzo makes the day-to-day functioning of the agency seem interesting in its own right--how the CIA deals with presidents (of all political stripes), Congress, the Justice Department, etc. He's a good writer. There's a lot of voice and personality--not dry at all. Armchair CIA buffs like me, those interested in the law -- you will find a lot to like here, even if you don't like Rizzo's politics.
19 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Outstanding memoir of premier intelligence lawyer 23 janvier 2014
Par Fred Manget - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
John Rizzo's book, "Company Man", is much like the author himself: smart, insightful, wry, self-deprecating, funny, and charming. I spent a quarter-century working for, with, and around John Rizzo at CIA, and I recommend the book to anyone who would like an insider's view of some of the most remarkable and now public national security episodes at the highest levels of the U.S. government during the last thirty years.

Rizzo arrived at CIA in 1976 as a dark-haired naif with a vague notion that intelligence law might be more interesting than the drudgery at the U.S. Customs Service in the Treasury Department that he had been doing fresh out of law school.

He was right about that. He left thirty-plus years later with his hair white and his personal file full of some of the most fascinating things a lawyer could ever do.

He almost immediately began a long and mutual love affair with the directorate at CIA whose mission includes acquiring secrets, catching spies, and stopping terrorists. It has been known by various names, most of the time being called the Directorate of Operations (the "DO") and now clumsily relabeled the National Clandestine Service. He rose up through the ranks of the career attorneys at CIA by dint of three characteristics lacking in most lawyers: a sense of humor, good nature, and an uncanny sense of how to successfully maneuver among a cacophony of competing equity holders both inside and outside of the Agency. He was a true adept.

His career was bracketed from beginning to end by deep involvement in the law, lore, and politics of covert action, much beloved by the seven presidents he served. The list of CIA activities he describes in his book reads like a Tolstoy novel: the Church Committee, William Casey, the Iran-Contra Affair, the Ames spy case, the rise of Al Qaeda, the 911 attacks, Valerie Plame, and the world-wide counterterrorist activities of the Agency.

And he was there, unlike a lot of others who never set foot at CIA or had any access to classified information. For example, how could Tim Weiner write a credible book purporting to be a history of the Agency without authorized access to any classified information? He didn't even get the meaning of the title of his book right. According to Agency historians who looked up the actual quote, "A Legacy of Ashes" was a phrase President Eisenhower directed at the military intelligence establishment, not CIA.

Rizzo's book does not shy away from his most controversial assignment related to enhanced interrogation techniques and treatment of high value detainees. The introduction of the book is titled, "The Tale of the Torture Tapes," and it provides the most detailed and accurate description of a program authorized by the president, found legal by the Department of Justice, and agreed to by the leadership of the intelligence oversight committees and the House and Senate. This ultimately scuppered his nomination to be the CIA's General Counsel, a Senate-confirmed position. His description of the process, decision-making, and agonizing that went into the establishment, oversight, and review of the program is both the most accurate to date and the most chilling, not because of the techniques used but rather the effect it had on highly dedicated and conscientious civil servants who carried it out.

When your lawyers have to get lawyers, you might as well pack up and leave.

The most striking parts of the book to an old hand like me are his wonderful descriptions of the many characters he ran into over the many years: Bill Casey, Stan Sporkin, George Tenet, Yuri Nosenko, Dewey Clarridge, Cofer Black, John Bellinger, Pat Fitzgerald, John Deutch, and a host of others, including the traitor Aldrich Ames.

Rizzo's interactions with members of Congress, including the shabby treatment he received during his confirmation process, should be required reading for any lawyer or policy-maker with designs on saving the world in Washington. Rizzo was entirely too polite in his book. Read Bob Gates's descriptions of Congress in his book, "Duty": Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee were "rude, nasty, and stupid." Senators were "hypocritical and obtuse." And the most complete: "I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities...micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country."

With the exception of Porter Goss and maybe David Boren, that's about right, from my years (including military service) working for eight presidents, eleven administrations, nine DCIs/ directors of CIA, and ten CIA general counsels.

As for Ron Wyden, who is much in the news lately and who seemed to take a personal dislike to Rizzo and the lead in unfairly trashing his nomination and ability--well, for someone who looks like a badly-aged Howdy-Doody, he's a perfect representative of those spineless dweebs infesting U.S. politics who would have been feebly waving their ACLU cards as the Soviet jackboots came up their streets and the mushroom cloud blossomed over Washington, all the while bleating, "Our government is after your liberties!"

If you want the views and memories of an actual insider participant in CIA history, as opposed to ignorant outsiders, read this book. It has as companions several other good memoirs written by Rizzo's contemporaries: "The Art of Intelligence" by Ambassador Hank Crumpton, "Hard Measures" by Jose Rodriguez, “At the Center of the Storm" by George Tenet, "Circle of Treason" by Sandy Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille.

All honorable, distinguished, and unabashed patriots.

And they were actually there.
22 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Interesting & easy read! 10 janvier 2014
Par Amy G. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Rizzo makes this an easy read with his writing style and a little bit of humor. But the bottom line is, if you have an interest in CIA, secrets behind the government, politics, conspiracies or government things that make the headlines you will like this book. Its seems to me the people that have given this book a bad review just simply don't like his politics and disagree with Rizzo not putting a stop to water boarding. So therefor give the book of one of the guys involved a bad review. Now I call that being political! I have read books and autobiographies of people I don't like or agree with, but I am strong enough and fair enough to still be honest and say they made a good book. It doesn't mean you have to agree with the person or things they did. Geeesh!
Anyway, back to what makes this a good book. As information finally gets told or leaked over years passing from various events it can be concluded there are THOUSANDS of things we, the public, don't know about. And I am fine with that. History shows some events that if there weren't a few people willing to stick their neck out, that America would not be the same great place. This era of "everybody needs to know everything all the time" is a detriment to America. Just my opinion, I will admit and say. Classified papers and issues, events just might be keeping you, your children, your Grandma, or....... quite possibly...... your great grandchildren you haven't even met yet SAFE! This is an interesting read to hear from a lawyer who had to make some tough decisions that affected America. He wasn't a spy or out traveling the world, but a boring lawyer that got to see and be in on some VERY interesting things, even making decisions on some of them. Which makes him a little more normal and down to earth of a guy to consider, than a fancy spy type. Good book.
19 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Enlightening and Refreshing Page-Turner 8 janvier 2014
Par Jan E Messerschmidt - Publié sur Amazon.com
As an aspiring government lawyer, John Rizzo's book is an eye-opening memoir. Though I'm sure much of the attention will be paid to Rizzo's controversial decisions after 9/11, particularly the decisions regarding the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, some of the most interesting parts of the book are Rizzo's lengthy path and rise through the ranks at the CIA. Understandably, there is much that Rizzo could not disclose. But despite this, Rizzo shows a surprising frankness about some of his closest colleagues that is both enlightening and refreshing. Rizzo's memoir is a true page turner and a resource for understanding the CIA, especially during it's toughest times.
11 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Insider's perspective written with grace and wit 13 janvier 2014
Par Stewart Baker - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
I can recommend Company Man by John Rizzo. Rizzo was one of the first lawyers at the CIA, and he recounts a thirty year career there with grace and a remarkable absence of rancor, even though he was denied the ultimate promotion — to General Counsel — after a highly politicized confirmation hearing. (His offense was asking the Justice Department whether certain harsh interrogation techniques were legal, and not selling out the CIA officers who relied on Justice’s advice by disavowing it when he got to the hearing.)

Rizzo had a ringside seat at all the most dramatic political events involving the CIA from the 1970s to the Obama Administration. He brings self-deprecating wit and a lot of human insight to his portrayal of these events and the CIA directors he helped guide through them. It’s available on January 5, 2014. (Disclosure: I got an early copy because John and I have been friends and colleagues for a long time. But in the interest of full disclosure, I have no incentive to overpraise his book, since I’m afraid it’s actually better than my book, Skating on Stilts.)
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