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Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA

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From the “most influential career lawyer in CIA history” (Los Angeles Times) an unprecedented memoir filled with never-before-told stories from his thirty-year career at the center of the U.S. government’s intelligence program (1976-2009). In 1975, fresh out of law school and working a numbing job at the Treasury Department, John Rizzo took “a total shot in the dark” and se From the “most influential career lawyer in CIA history” (Los Angeles Times) an unprecedented memoir filled with never-before-told stories from his thirty-year career at the center of the U.S. government’s intelligence program (1976-2009). In 1975, fresh out of law school and working a numbing job at the Treasury Department, John Rizzo took “a total shot in the dark” and sent his résumé to the Central Intelligence Agency. He had no notion that more than thirty years later, after serving under eleven CIA directors and seven presidents, he would become a notorious public figure—a symbol and a victim of the toxic winds swirling in post-9/11 Washington. From serving as the point person answering for the Iran-contra scandal to approving the rules that govern waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” John Rizzo witnessed and participated in virtually all of the significant operations of the CIA’s modern history. In Company Man, Rizzo charts the CIA’s evolution from shadowy entity to an organization exposed to new laws, rules, and a seemingly neverending string of public controversies. Rizzo offers a direct window into the CIA in the years after the 9/11 attacks, when he served as the agency’s top lawyer, with oversight of actions that remain the subject of intense debate today. In Company Man, Rizzo is the first CIA official to ever describe what “black sites” look like from the inside and he provides the most comprehensive account ever written of the “torture tape” fiasco surrounding the interrogation of Al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah and the birth, growth, and death of the enhanced interrogation program. Spanning more than three decades, Company Man is the most authoritative insider account of the CIA ever written—a groundbreaking, timely, and remarkably candid history of American intelligence.


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From the “most influential career lawyer in CIA history” (Los Angeles Times) an unprecedented memoir filled with never-before-told stories from his thirty-year career at the center of the U.S. government’s intelligence program (1976-2009). In 1975, fresh out of law school and working a numbing job at the Treasury Department, John Rizzo took “a total shot in the dark” and se From the “most influential career lawyer in CIA history” (Los Angeles Times) an unprecedented memoir filled with never-before-told stories from his thirty-year career at the center of the U.S. government’s intelligence program (1976-2009). In 1975, fresh out of law school and working a numbing job at the Treasury Department, John Rizzo took “a total shot in the dark” and sent his résumé to the Central Intelligence Agency. He had no notion that more than thirty years later, after serving under eleven CIA directors and seven presidents, he would become a notorious public figure—a symbol and a victim of the toxic winds swirling in post-9/11 Washington. From serving as the point person answering for the Iran-contra scandal to approving the rules that govern waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” John Rizzo witnessed and participated in virtually all of the significant operations of the CIA’s modern history. In Company Man, Rizzo charts the CIA’s evolution from shadowy entity to an organization exposed to new laws, rules, and a seemingly neverending string of public controversies. Rizzo offers a direct window into the CIA in the years after the 9/11 attacks, when he served as the agency’s top lawyer, with oversight of actions that remain the subject of intense debate today. In Company Man, Rizzo is the first CIA official to ever describe what “black sites” look like from the inside and he provides the most comprehensive account ever written of the “torture tape” fiasco surrounding the interrogation of Al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah and the birth, growth, and death of the enhanced interrogation program. Spanning more than three decades, Company Man is the most authoritative insider account of the CIA ever written—a groundbreaking, timely, and remarkably candid history of American intelligence.

30 review for Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ku

    Malcolm Gladwell recommended this book because he said a career bureaucrat have more to tell than a star. He was right.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

    A gripping, well-written and readable memoir of Rizzo’s career as well as, more generally, a history of the thirty years in which Rizzo was employed by the CIA. Rizzo argues that the Agency really is an accountable organization generally aware of the legal implications of its actions. Obviously this thesis won’t be accepted by all, and the memoir is quite defensive. The theme of the book seems to be about the challenge of balancing the core mission of an intelligence agency with the need to obey A gripping, well-written and readable memoir of Rizzo’s career as well as, more generally, a history of the thirty years in which Rizzo was employed by the CIA. Rizzo argues that the Agency really is an accountable organization generally aware of the legal implications of its actions. Obviously this thesis won’t be accepted by all, and the memoir is quite defensive. The theme of the book seems to be about the challenge of balancing the core mission of an intelligence agency with the need to obey the law, all of it in the face of an ever-evolving political process. He does not try very hard to argue a particular viewpoint, and the whole narrative is basically driven by questions of “how.” Rizzo recounts joining the CIA’s Office of General Counsel in the aftermath of the Church Committee hearings---“the first of many attorney-hiring binges I would witness at the CIA during my career, most of them coinciding with the inevitable postmortem of some flap or controversy that the Agency reliably, if unfortunately, managed to embroil itself in every few years...A scandal would be awful for the Agency institutionally, but be great for the OGC’s growth potential.” He describes CIA operations officers as “completely un-Machiavellian when seeking legal advice (otherwise, they wouldn’t be coming in the first place). They ask only that their lawyer not look or act like he thinks they are idiots, lunatics, or criminals.” Rizzo covers such incidents as the Yuri Nosenko affair, the Church Committee, Iran-Contra (which put Rizzo on the map, which he describes as “fun as hell”, and which he calls “the best thing that happened to me in my career”), the historical origins of written presidential findings to authorize covert action (mandated by Congress and left for Rizzo to figure out), the Aldrich Ames case (a particularly gripping part of the book), the Wilson/Plame affair, and others. He describes the controversies and media storms surrounding the Agency’s use of “dirty assets” in places like Guatemala, and how these resulted in CIA officers becoming less inclined to recruit them---until, of course, Congress and the media easily derided the CIA’s “risk aversion” following 9/11. He also describes the impossibility of getting any purely lethal operations against bin Laden approved, as well as the more basic problem of obtaining reliable intelligence about bin Laden’s whereabouts and movements. Of course, much of the book deals with the CIA’s post-9/11 rendition, detention and interrogation program. Rizzo writes that information extracted from waterboarding Abu Zubaydah led to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, for example (according to the Senate’s report, bin al-Shibh was unexpectedly captured in a raid targeting Hassan Ghul, with no connection between Zubaydah’s reporting and bin al-Shibh’s capture). Another controversy deals with whether or not President Bush was knowledgeable about the program and the techniques used. According to Rizzo, Bush attended none of the Principals Committee meetings on the program (presidents rarely attend such meetings anyway) and Rizzo writes that he is unaware of Bush ever being personally briefed on the program. In his memoirs, Bush asserts that he reviewed the EITs in advance and that he vetoed none of them, even though Justice had already approved their use on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Bush also writes that he met with Tenet about the program, although Rizzo is unaware of such meetings, and Tenet told him that he had no such discussions. Rizzo attributes the episode to Bush’s willingness and intent to assume responsibility for the program. While discussing the issue of briefing the congressional oversight committees about the program, Rizzo recalls no objections, and calls the decision to not brief the entire membership “foolish and feckless.” Rizzo also covers, more generally, the CIA’s drone programs and notes the irony of targeted killings generating less outrage from Congress and human rights groups, and less media coverage, than the EITs. He notes the additional irony that targeting terrorists for lethal action was “always a big deal during the Clinton administration,” a turn of events Rizzo finds “perverse.” He notes that drone strikes expanded dramatically under Obama and that human rights groups were drawn to the program partly because they needed a new issue to attack following the end of the RDI program. Rizzo’s treatment of all the figures he interacted with will strike some as too uncritical, although he does not seem to be a fan of the likes of Ron Wyden (“a foe who could not be appeased”) or various others. He is fairly critical of Clinton’s inaction regarding the al-Qaeda threat but says less about Bush’s inaction during his first few month of office. In another passage that critics will love, Rizzo recalls Bush’s public denials of any sort of rendition program: “It’s not that he deliberately lied---I am sure that he did not. Still, his answer wasn’t true.” Rizzo doesn’t even address the question of whether any of the intelligence revealed by the EITs was true or not. Also, some parts of the book seem to strain credulity. Rizzo writes that Porter Goss “never intended” to cover up the destruction of the CIA’s EIT tapes, for example. Still, an insightful, wry and clearly written memoir from a relatively unusual perspective.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marya

    R. John does more justice to this book (is there a pun in there?) than I ever could, so just go and read his review. However, I just have to add.. . Careerist? What an understatement! Rizzo believes that all the agents on the ground who were involved with the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques program were convinced it was necessary. How does he know this? Well, these were smart people-- so smart, that they'd know that participating in this program wasn't going to expressly help their career along - R. John does more justice to this book (is there a pun in there?) than I ever could, so just go and read his review. However, I just have to add.. . Careerist? What an understatement! Rizzo believes that all the agents on the ground who were involved with the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques program were convinced it was necessary. How does he know this? Well, these were smart people-- so smart, that they'd know that participating in this program wasn't going to expressly help their career along --and they participated anyway. Surely, nothing is more important than one's career? Rizzo seems to be unable to even conceive of a world where one would follow repellent job orders because they needed the money/health insurance. Likeable equals competent? Again, R. John understates this. Sure, it's one thing to stick up for your buddies who may have made bad choices but were really swell. It's another thing to defend the polices of individuals who were later revealed to be literally out of their minds (Reagan and Casey). Tone-deaf? Rizzo insists the EITs were not torture (just "hairy"). Torture terms are reseved for Rizzo's interludes with Congress, which he describes as "bloodbaths", and the Congressmen as "grilling" him. Still, it was a fun book to get through for its interesting subject matter.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    In the last ten yeas a flood of CIA memoirs have been published. Rizzo's is pretty unique in that he was an attorney and not a case officer which provides a less documented perspective on The Agency since the mid-1970s. For instance, Rizzo delves into the history and mechanics of Presidential Findings since he helped create the modern process for writing and approving Findings. He discusses operations from a legal perspective rather than the nitty gritty of executing covert action. He does spend In the last ten yeas a flood of CIA memoirs have been published. Rizzo's is pretty unique in that he was an attorney and not a case officer which provides a less documented perspective on The Agency since the mid-1970s. For instance, Rizzo delves into the history and mechanics of Presidential Findings since he helped create the modern process for writing and approving Findings. He discusses operations from a legal perspective rather than the nitty gritty of executing covert action. He does spend a lot of time examining the post-9/11 years, enhanced interrogations, and turmoil surrounding those events. As with all CIA memoirs you could see where he wanted to tell more, but the Publication Review Board drew a line. In all, I found Rizzo's perspective very interesting and refreshing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    I haven’t wanted to burn a book in… ever. But I tell you what, if one was inclined to burn books, you could do a service to humanity and start with this one. Except that it may need to exist as proof of how psychopathic and monstrous the US “intelligence community” is. The banality of evil is horrendous, masked behind all the acronyms and platitudes and decades of indoctrinated normalcy. It made me sick to my stomach, and that’s a tough thing to do.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alex Clark

    Decent read that had good writing. The whole "I worked at the CIA for 30 years" ends up not yielding much for story telling (dude I met this one guy in this place and some cool stuff happened). It's more a very lawyer type story. Decent read that had good writing. The whole "I worked at the CIA for 30 years" ends up not yielding much for story telling (dude I met this one guy in this place and some cool stuff happened). It's more a very lawyer type story.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kyrie

    It's the story of a lawyer who rose to be the Acting General Counsel for the CIA. That explains why he's very careful with his words, why he uses lots and lots of abbreviations (at least he provides a list of acronyms at the beginning, and why there seems to be a lot of, I don't know, gaps, details, something missing from the story. In the epilogue, he explains that he had to submit the manuscript to the CIA for approval and they took stuff out. The introduction bored me to sleep, literally, but It's the story of a lawyer who rose to be the Acting General Counsel for the CIA. That explains why he's very careful with his words, why he uses lots and lots of abbreviations (at least he provides a list of acronyms at the beginning, and why there seems to be a lot of, I don't know, gaps, details, something missing from the story. In the epilogue, he explains that he had to submit the manuscript to the CIA for approval and they took stuff out. The introduction bored me to sleep, literally, but it picks up a little after that. So, don't quit after the intro. Give it a couple chapters. (Which is where my spouse gave up on it). All I can figure is it's Rizzo's chance to tell the parts of his story that his nomination interviews for General Counsel didn't let him tell. Not that he answers the questions any further, but he at least explains why he isn't answering. There's parts I can relate to - the bureaucracy, the aggravation of trying to deal with elected officials who seem to have no clue how career government people, who were hired and not elected, work. I'll give it to the guy that he really doesn't criticize these officials (with the exceptions of a few). I can't say it really made things clearer, but it reminded me that the media doesn't have the whole story, neither does the White House, Congress, the American people or the CIA itself. Made me want to hunt down Fox Mulder and ask questions.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    This guy is a real piece of work. I can see right through his grandstanding and his attitude towards many of the people he writes about dealing with throughout the book. But all that said, it's a very interesting read and is particularly relevant right now. I picked it up out of the blue before Gina Haspel's nomination came before the Senate, but it was particularly relevant to be reading it while her confirmation hearings have been in the news. I recommend the read, but get it from the library This guy is a real piece of work. I can see right through his grandstanding and his attitude towards many of the people he writes about dealing with throughout the book. But all that said, it's a very interesting read and is particularly relevant right now. I picked it up out of the blue before Gina Haspel's nomination came before the Senate, but it was particularly relevant to be reading it while her confirmation hearings have been in the news. I recommend the read, but get it from the library so he doesn't get the royalty, because he really doesn't come across as a good human to me, mostly because it's pretty clear he doesn't think there was anything wrong with torturing human beings in the early 2000s.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alexa

    I thought this was excellent. Although I do not agree with the "extended interrogation techniques" that Rizzo helped erect and therefore took issue with some of the claims he made, the vast majority of this book is not an argument in favor or against torture or anything of the sort; instead, it is a chronicle of his experiences at the agency, a revelation of some of the inside workings of some of our nation's greatest intelligence crises, and an intriguing exploration of history. Well-written, i I thought this was excellent. Although I do not agree with the "extended interrogation techniques" that Rizzo helped erect and therefore took issue with some of the claims he made, the vast majority of this book is not an argument in favor or against torture or anything of the sort; instead, it is a chronicle of his experiences at the agency, a revelation of some of the inside workings of some of our nation's greatest intelligence crises, and an intriguing exploration of history. Well-written, interesting, and engaging.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Really boring. I was interested to read this, but it reads more as an events and person list with very little dive into the details and 'secrets' of the inner workings. Also, if water boarding isn't torture, put yourself on the rack and take a dip. Report back. Ugh. Really boring. I was interested to read this, but it reads more as an events and person list with very little dive into the details and 'secrets' of the inner workings. Also, if water boarding isn't torture, put yourself on the rack and take a dip. Report back. Ugh.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    I enjoyed reading about the CIA from an attorney's perspective. Rizzo is a good writer, and provides an important glimpse into U.S. national security policy. I do have two issues with the book: 1) It seems that the CIA, or at the least the CIA's upper management and OGC, was not only overwhelmingly white and male, but white men selected from a few elite east coast universities. (Has there ever been a CIA head or OGC head who was not a white male who went to east coast elite college? My research s I enjoyed reading about the CIA from an attorney's perspective. Rizzo is a good writer, and provides an important glimpse into U.S. national security policy. I do have two issues with the book: 1) It seems that the CIA, or at the least the CIA's upper management and OGC, was not only overwhelmingly white and male, but white men selected from a few elite east coast universities. (Has there ever been a CIA head or OGC head who was not a white male who went to east coast elite college? My research says no, but happy to be corrected.) Rizzo doesn't address how this homogeneity came to be, why it is and remains so exclusionary to non-white men, how it does or doesn't affect groupthink, and what that homogeneity means for national security. He married a woman who works for the CIA, so it would not be difficult for him to hear the opinion of a non-white guy in the service! I think most white men of his generation just didn't think about this stuff, it was just the way it was, and you pretended/believed you were all in a colorblind meritocracy - but I wish he would grapple with it in the book. 2) I watched him do a book talk and take Q&A from the audience. Someone asked about the controversial torture memos, and why he had to even ask DOJ for guidance on what was obviously torture, such as the waterboarding, which the American government had brought torture charges against enemy combatants after WWII for doing. Having just read the book, I expected him to defend his actions - say he was running it up the chain, it was right after 9/11 in a different atmosphere, etc. - but he didn't. He plead ignorance and seemed to regret his actions. This was a different tone than he struck in the book, and I wished he had been more critical of the CIA's use of torture and his own involvement in that program in the book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    John

    A company man is an apt description of John Rizzo. He was one of the most influential men in the CIA for 20 plus years of his 34 year stint there. With that comes an insider perceptive on some of the most notable events in the CIA history, most importantly the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. Rizzo articulates the reasons behind the EIT program with a logical and a surprisingly unbiased view. I found Rizzo making a compelling argument for the necessity of the program but at the same time an opi A company man is an apt description of John Rizzo. He was one of the most influential men in the CIA for 20 plus years of his 34 year stint there. With that comes an insider perceptive on some of the most notable events in the CIA history, most importantly the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. Rizzo articulates the reasons behind the EIT program with a logical and a surprisingly unbiased view. I found Rizzo making a compelling argument for the necessity of the program but at the same time an opinion against the morals too. I must say my viewpoint was change. However the reader must be careful. Rizzo is a master wordsmith as with most lawyers, and this book has been vetted with a fine tooth comb to not included anything harmful. Read this with an open but inquisitive mindset.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Hajar

    1)Author is in plain denial about the cruel , inhumane ways for interrogations by CIA. That's what happens when you've grown too attached to something. Also shows effects of groupthink. 2) Lack of diversity in CIA. 3) Author appears to be not used to working alongside women (point #2). 4) I dislike how author brushes of Valerie Plume and tells as it her journalist/ ambitious husband that made her identity public. 5) Tells the importance of networking and lobbying. 6) I still enjoy the book. Seem 1)Author is in plain denial about the cruel , inhumane ways for interrogations by CIA. That's what happens when you've grown too attached to something. Also shows effects of groupthink. 2) Lack of diversity in CIA. 3) Author appears to be not used to working alongside women (point #2). 4) I dislike how author brushes of Valerie Plume and tells as it her journalist/ ambitious husband that made her identity public. 5) Tells the importance of networking and lobbying. 6) I still enjoy the book. Seems like a pleasant man to work him. It shows in his endearing mentions to other colleagues. :)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dave Estela

    Decent autobiography by a CIA insider on the working of the Agency over a 30+ year period. Most interesting was his detailed explanation of the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) by the CIA on post-9/11 terrorists and its creation and approval by the government. Of course, like every autobiography, it only gives his side of the story so while I believe what he's written I'm sure there are others who would cover the time period differently. Another part of the book I enjoyed was the time the Decent autobiography by a CIA insider on the working of the Agency over a 30+ year period. Most interesting was his detailed explanation of the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) by the CIA on post-9/11 terrorists and its creation and approval by the government. Of course, like every autobiography, it only gives his side of the story so while I believe what he's written I'm sure there are others who would cover the time period differently. Another part of the book I enjoyed was the time they caught they spy Aldrich Ames working within their midst. Worth the read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    You'd think a book written by a CIA lawyer would be like reading a text book, but this book was super engaging. It gives you an insiders look on how the CIA is run, and just how reliant the agency is on relationships with members of congress and administrations. The deep dive into the enhanced interrogation tesuniqes fiasco was also fascinating, and eye-opening. If you'd like to see how the sausage of intelligence policy is made, give it a try. You'd think a book written by a CIA lawyer would be like reading a text book, but this book was super engaging. It gives you an insiders look on how the CIA is run, and just how reliant the agency is on relationships with members of congress and administrations. The deep dive into the enhanced interrogation tesuniqes fiasco was also fascinating, and eye-opening. If you'd like to see how the sausage of intelligence policy is made, give it a try.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lizzy Tonkin

    This was required reading for a law class, but I was pleasantly surprised that although it was both deep & insightful, it was also an easy, entertaining, and engaging memoir to read. Definitely not an objective perspective on CIA activities, especially with the post 9/11 enhanced interrogation techniques, but I thought Rizzo was well balanced and humble in explaining his reasoning and perspective.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Scott Helms

    Inside the CIA from a long term career lawyer I enjoyed this book! Mr. Rizzo candidly weaved a four decade / 7 president / 11 director story about our premier intelligence apparatus's infrastructure. Though I feel different than Rizzo about torture (he'd call it EIT), I can understand his rationale for the label and practice. All in all, a good read by a good public servant. Inside the CIA from a long term career lawyer I enjoyed this book! Mr. Rizzo candidly weaved a four decade / 7 president / 11 director story about our premier intelligence apparatus's infrastructure. Though I feel different than Rizzo about torture (he'd call it EIT), I can understand his rationale for the label and practice. All in all, a good read by a good public servant.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vic Davis

    Very interesting and insightful read. John Rizzo did a great job telling his story. It was great to get his perspective of the EIT program as well as the Iran-Contra scandal. In addition, John Rizzo shows that partisan politics doesn't have to infect everyone in D.C. despite decades of being surrounded and exposed to nothing but partisanship. Very interesting and insightful read. John Rizzo did a great job telling his story. It was great to get his perspective of the EIT program as well as the Iran-Contra scandal. In addition, John Rizzo shows that partisan politics doesn't have to infect everyone in D.C. despite decades of being surrounded and exposed to nothing but partisanship.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nancy McCormick

    Interesting read on the CIA Told from the perspective of a CIA lawyer, this memoir was surprisingly entertaining, not dry and plodding, as some legal times are. The view of CIA activities from a legal viewpoint - not flashy counterintelligence operatives - makes you think differently about this agency and their mandate.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Fun to get insight into an interesting job: A lawyer for the CIA. Good stories, some that arose from Known news stories. Rizzo's disdain for anyone critical of the CIA (including and especially Clinton and Obama) is tempered by his loyal roots. Good read. Fun to get insight into an interesting job: A lawyer for the CIA. Good stories, some that arose from Known news stories. Rizzo's disdain for anyone critical of the CIA (including and especially Clinton and Obama) is tempered by his loyal roots. Good read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    I really enjoyed this memoir by John Rizzo, who was a lawyer for the CIA for three decades. He seems like a man of principle, with a great respect for his agency while at the same time not ignoring the faults and bad leadership he sometimes witnessed.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Too Many Toys

    Relatively balanced. Having read a number of accounts and perspectives of the CIA and national security from this time frame, Rizzo adds something useful. This book is worthwhile for anyone who wants to understand the complexities of national security in the last 25 years.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Really is impressive how he managed to get all the way to the "these people were just following orders" defense. An illuminating read into the thinking behind things, but a person who takes his moral cues from the goals of the people for whom he works... Really is impressive how he managed to get all the way to the "these people were just following orders" defense. An illuminating read into the thinking behind things, but a person who takes his moral cues from the goals of the people for whom he works...

  24. 4 out of 5

    barry fleck

    Great insite from an insider Loved the book! A great look inside the working of the VIA from there top lawyer at the time. Very honest and believable.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Reed Wolfley

    I knew nothing about the CIA and now I feel like I know even less, but have been truly entertained by Rizzo’s tales as a lawyer in the CIA. Everyone should read this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Seems to be an honest account. Rizzo certainly experienced some of the CIA's darkest days. Seems to be an honest account. Rizzo certainly experienced some of the CIA's darkest days.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Luke Ingalls

    Very interesting. At times a bit dry.

  28. 5 out of 5

    John

    Poor John Rizzo. He missed his calling as an affable stand up comedian. It takes him to page 182 to mention Hannah Arendt's THE BANALITY OF EVIL. An appearance I found incredibly tone deaf considering how much of his book is a tepid reworking of the Eichmann "careerist" excuse. There is no reason to doubt Rizzo's sincerity, though, he really was trying to protect the agents and assets under him from criminal prosecution. He understood the odious nature of the "enhanced interrogation program" and Poor John Rizzo. He missed his calling as an affable stand up comedian. It takes him to page 182 to mention Hannah Arendt's THE BANALITY OF EVIL. An appearance I found incredibly tone deaf considering how much of his book is a tepid reworking of the Eichmann "careerist" excuse. There is no reason to doubt Rizzo's sincerity, though, he really was trying to protect the agents and assets under him from criminal prosecution. He understood the odious nature of the "enhanced interrogation program" and all the ways it compromised the CIA and the agents carrying it out. Rizzo was fully aware that the CIA was jumping into the deep end. For the first half of Rizzo's self-serving memoir, he paints himself as a competent policy wonk, though with a "hilarious" tendency to make awkward faux pas (like sitting in George Bush Sr's chair at one of his first CIA meetings)! His recounting of these situations are a wonderful defection technique. By painting himself as a self-deprecating workaday bureaucrat, by categorizing everyone's ability based on their likeability, and by continuing mentioning his cigar habit Rizzo grounds his scandal plagued tenure at the CIA in a sort of punched time card normality. But the insanity of the Iran/Contra affair (which he was charged to manage congress through) to the development of the "Torture Memos" is glossed over with an attitude of "Hey, at least, we could joke around in the halls!" The second half of the book is broken into to interrelated parts. How the "Enhanced Interrogation Program" came into being and making several reassurances that, while things were done (water boarding and some other technique too brutal to name), no one was tortured. Ever. And all those CIA "black sites" were actually really well run and not chambers of horrors. In order to do this, Rizzo compartmentalizes the Abu Ghraib atrocities, the WMD failure, and the creation of GitMo in order to dispel the climate of the times. While Rizzo takes some responsibility for the creation of the EITs, he does push the blame back to the Office of Legal Council at the Justice Department. He is quick to throw Yoo under the bus, after the fact. The last section of the book is an embittered tirade concerning the failure of his nomination to General Counsel. He rails against Congress members who snubbed him, refused to play nice, and who bought into the notion that the EITs were torture. A strange place to end the book, since I felt the tone utterly undermines his purposeful narrative voice up to that point. No longer just an affable guy at work, the reader hears Rizzo's real smug ego for the first time. In short, I believe with all my heart that John Rizzo is the guy who will talk to you from the stall while you stand at the urinal without missing a conversational beat, no matter what foul smells or noises he creates.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carl R.

    John Rizzo spent over thirty years in various legal capacities with the CIA; that is, as a Company Man, serving several presidents, undergoing several near misses at the General Counsel post. He was acting general counsel on a number of occasions, but never achieved the top post. Politics, he says. Although, much of his career was exciting as you might expect a lawyer for spies to be, and even selfless in his opinion, to my mind, his shameful last few years at the agency negated the whatever good John Rizzo spent over thirty years in various legal capacities with the CIA; that is, as a Company Man, serving several presidents, undergoing several near misses at the General Counsel post. He was acting general counsel on a number of occasions, but never achieved the top post. Politics, he says. Although, much of his career was exciting as you might expect a lawyer for spies to be, and even selfless in his opinion, to my mind, his shameful last few years at the agency negated the whatever good he did during the previous twenty-five. Rizzo was the self-proclaimed crafter of the torture memos which gave legal cover to the horrendous EIT's (enhanced interrogation techniques) and black prisons which so shamed this country in the post-9/11 days. He claims that the techniques yielded valuable life-saving information that might have been gained in no other way. Whether that's true or not, I'm in no position to say. However, the fact that he asserts that the FBI distanced themselves from the program early on and that he fails to mention that the army field manual labeled waterboarding as torture cast doubts on his assertion. He also describes the scaling back of the EIT program to omit techniques such as water boarding and naked interrogation but makes no claim that this reduction in severity yielded less information or less credible information. I suppose if you consider this episode a black eye in our country's history, as I do, this makes for a painful read. If you think it was necessary and proper, you'll be applauding the guy. As for me, it was an interesting and rather candid book by and about a man for whom I have little sympathy.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    If you knew nothing about John Rizzo, you'd see the title and think this was a juicy tell-all. But Rizzo plays the company man here as well, defending the CIA as a beleaguered organization of stand-up people working by the book, who took the fall for other people's mistakes. You're not going to get more than the official story here, but its mere existence is a telling glimpse into the unredeemable situation the CIA finds itself in. In short, the excesses of the early years caught up to them in th If you knew nothing about John Rizzo, you'd see the title and think this was a juicy tell-all. But Rizzo plays the company man here as well, defending the CIA as a beleaguered organization of stand-up people working by the book, who took the fall for other people's mistakes. You're not going to get more than the official story here, but its mere existence is a telling glimpse into the unredeemable situation the CIA finds itself in. In short, the excesses of the early years caught up to them in the 80's with the Iran Contra scandal. Clinton was stand-offish with the CIA and underutilized them through the 90's. They began to poke their heads back out during the Bush years, but not until they obtained plausible deniability from the White House. When the torture memos came out, along with Frank Weiner's scathing "Legacy of Ashes," a number of former CIA careerists came out of the woodwork to point fingers at others in disappointingly bland memoirs. Rizzo takes this tack from the very start - throwing Jose Rodriguez under the bus for authorizing the destruction of the waterboarding tapes, and then whining about how Congress picked on him in a committee hearing. The other reviewers do a better job of skewering Rizzo's claims, but I have to conclude from his tone that the man actually expects the reader to feel bad for the CIA.

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