What a difference a few days makes! The CIA lawyer whose defense of the illegal CIA interrogation program cost a promotion all of a sudden reverses course and says addressing detainee treatment must be an urgent priority for President-elect Obama. For once, we happen to agree with Johan Rizzo!
At the American Bar Association’s conference on national security yesterday, CIA senior deputy general counsel John Rizzo recommended that President-elect Barack Obama “address immediately detainee issues at Guantanamo Bay and in the CIA’s interrogation program.” Rizzo said that the agency’s interrogation and detainee program needs “urgent” attention:
The CIA detention and interrogation program, he said, is just as urgent. “That’s going to have to be dealt with immediately,” Rizzo said. “We do not have the luxury to wait and muddle through.” He knows how tough the issue is–his involvement in helping the CIA construct the program earned him opposition in Congress that killed his nomination to be the CIA’s general counsel.
The Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Gorman did not report whether Rizzo said anything specific about how the program needs to be “dealt” with. This information would be important since, as Gorman notes, Rizzo controversially helped construct the program that pushed the boundaries of torture.
In 2002, while serving as an acting general counsel, Rizzo approved of a memo drafted by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that stretched the definition of torture in order to make it permissible for use in the course of an interrogation. Asked at a June 2007 confirmation hearing if he “should have objected at the time” to Bybee’s definition of torture, Rizzo replied, “I can’t say I should have objected at the time.”