default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Steve Hansen: CIA’s loss of favor just another political shift

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 12:00 am

Once again, the Central Intelligence Agency is embroiled in controversy. The latest involves CIA agents tapping into the congressional emails of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Director John Brennan has since apologized.

On a related note, during last Friday’s news conference, President Obama reviewed a historical perspective on an earlier CIA controversy known as enhanced interrogation techniques, or “EITs.” These were methods used to extract strategic information from captured terrorists.

The president and some members of both political parties have called the use of EITs “torture.” However, attorney John Rizzo holds a different perspective on this issue. The following narrative summarizes his view:

Rizzo was a CIA lawyer for almost 34 years. Recently, he published his memoirs in a book titled “Company Man.”

Just before his career began in 1976, the Office of General Counsel at the CIA had only nine attorneys. Within six months, it doubled in size to 18. (He was number 18.) By the time of his retirement in 2009, there were approximately 120 full-time lawyers who made up the CIA’s legal team.

What was the need for so many legal beagles in an organization known for its spy operations? Rizzo claims it began in 1974, with stories published in the New York Times about lawless CIA ventures. These ranged from assassination plots against Cuba’s Fidel Castro to drug experiments on unsuspecting Americans.

As a result, Frank Church held several congressional hearings in 1975. The senator made no bones about calling several witnesses before the public eye and exposing some of the agency’s darkest secrets. Rizzo says that this was the catalyst for expanding attorney positions within the agency. The new counselors called themselves “church babies.”

But fast-forward to September 2001: The World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by terrorists, using hijacked airliners. The CIA and the military, as President Obama stated last Friday, were now under “enormous pressure” to cover all bases and prevent any future catastrophes. That’s when the EITs program was born, which Rizzo helped draft.

Soon after 9/11, an al-Qaida bigwig named Abu Zubaydah was captured. Attempts were made to obtain any and all information about planned terrorist campaigns. According to Rizzo, Zubaydah could not be broken by ordinary interrogative methods. He seemed to relish taunting his captors.

The CIA lawyers, with the backing of the Bush Justice Department, approved various techniques for dealing with such a situation. They ranged from sleep depravation to the now-famous “waterboarding.” Rizzo points out that there were CIA officials who believed these methods were quite helpful in breaking Zubaydah, as well as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, also known as “KSM.”

Lawyers from the CIA did not think EITs were “torture.” Most, if not all, of these methods were not invented by the CIA. Rizzo states: “... the U.S. military has used them for years in training exercises (called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) on thousands of soldiers to prepare them in case they were captured and subjected to such practices by the enemy.”

But as Americans began to feel safer, perceptions changed. Rizzo writes: “Media leaks about the CIA secret prison system and the EITs had begun, drip by drip.”

Once again, Congress got into the act. The George Washington Law School graduate opines: “The political pendulum began to swing back from ‘Protect us at all costs’ to ‘What the hell have you guys been up to, anyway?’”

As a result of this reversed attitude, some careers in the CIA were trashed. Directors came and went. Rizzo, although nominated for CIA general counsel by President Bush, reluctantly withdrew his nomination because of involvement with the “scandal.”

Consequently, the long-time CIA attorney and one-time acting general counsel reveals that the Obama administration, by using executive orders, scrapped all EITs — along with “black sites” or secret prisons that were located in friendly countries.

The irony of Rizzo’s tale is that so many in the CIA did what they could to protect Americans “at all costs” during a very trying time. But instead of “thank you for your service,” the Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric Holder, considered pursuing criminal charges. However, investigations against various CIA employees were dropped in 2012. As a consequence, no prosecutions took place.

In the final analysis, the question still remains as to whether EITs were “torture,” as President Obama and others have asserted, or were simply necessary procedures to prevent thousands of innocent lives from being lost.

Future events will most assuredly decide.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don’t pretend you’re someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don’t threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don’t insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the ‘Report’ link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.
  • 9 Don’t be a troll.
  • 10 Don’t reveal personal information about other commenters. You may reveal your own personal information, but we advise you not to do so.
  • 11 We reserve the right, at our discretion, to monitor, delete or choose not to post any comment. This may include removing or monitoring posts that we believe violate the spirit or letter of these rules, or that we otherwise determine at our discretion needs to be monitored, not posted, or deleted.

Welcome to the discussion.

Recent Comments

Posted 9 hours ago by Ed Walters.

article: Letter: Ron Portal’s letters repeat the…

Kaur, with your slant on my posts [thumbdown]


Posted 10 hours ago by M. Doyle.

article: Letter: No one’s faith should be scorned

Nope, it was: "Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead." He never implied killing anyone. Either way, what's your poi…


Posted 12 hours ago by Ed Walters.

article: Letter: Suggestions for committee appoi…

Fiske: Another new guy, you state JoAnne hates Bob, BS I know JoAnne and she is the most fair minded person on the counsel, and has been f…


Posted 12 hours ago by Shane Marcus.

article: ‘Taken 3’ takes a wrong turn with no ch…

This is an opinion, nothing more


Posted 13 hours ago by Ed Walters.

article: Letter: No one’s faith should be scorned

Ben Franklin also said, The best way to keep a secret between 3 people is to dispose of the first two.



Popular Stories



Your News

News for the community, by the community.

Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists