An Insider’s Look at the CIA

A show of hands, please: Who wants to cross-examine the former acting general counsel of the CIA about his 34 years at the agency, including his work on the “enhanced interrogation program” instituted after the 9/11 attacks? 

Several LLM students in the National Security and U.S. Foreign Relations Law Program did when John Rizzo, JD ’72, joined them for an LLM-only discussion of his autobiography, Company Man (Scribner 2014), but only after Professor Gregory E. Maggs had the first round. Professor Maggs asked Mr. Rizzo, who served in the CIA’s top legal role in the early to mid-2000s, not only about how he started his career with “The Company” but also about the agency’s inner workings during the years after the 9/11 attacks and the controversy surrounding the “enhanced interrogation program.” The students followed with a barrage of probing questions about lawyering at the CIA.

Mr. Rizzo answered candidly, providing a unique insider’s perspective on these and other questions, including his opinions on how much President George W. Bush knew about the CIA’s interrogation programs, and interrogation and drone policies. Looking back at his start in the law, Mr. Rizzo explained that he chose to attend GW because of its proximity to the White House and State Department, not specifically to prepare for an intelligence career. “No national law school had a national security program—it was under the radar,” he told the students in attendance. Learning that GW started the first National Security Law LLM in 2009, he commented, “You folks are very fortunate.”