12 April 2011
John Anthony Rizzo, CIA Drone Killer Eyeball
Inside the Killing Machine
February 13, 2011
President Obama is ordering a record number of Predator strikes. An exclusive interview with a man who approved "lethal operations."
It was an ordinary-looking room located in an office building in northern Virginia [eyeball]. The place was filled with computer monitors, keyboards, and maps. Someone sat at a desk with his hand on a joystick. John A. Rizzo, who was serving as the CIA's acting general counsel, hovered nearby, along with other people from the agency. Together they watched images on a screen that showed a man and his family traveling down a road thousands of miles away. The vehicle slowed down, and the man climbed out.
A moment later, an explosion filled the screen, and the man was dead. "It was very businesslike," says Rizzo. An aerial drone had killed the man, a high-level terrorism suspect, after he had gotten out of the vehicle, while members of his family were spared. "The agency was very punctilious about this," Rizzo says. "They tried to minimize collateral damage, especially women and children."
The broad outlines of the CIA's operations to kill suspected terrorists have been known to the public for some timebincluding how the United States kills Qaeda and Taliban militants by drone aircraft in Pakistan. But the formal process of determining who should be hunted down and "blown to bits," as Rizzo puts it, has not been previously reported. A look at the bureaucracy behind the operations reveals that it is multilayered and methodical, run by a corps of civil servants who carry out their duties in a professional manner. Still, the fact that Rizzo was involved in "murder," as he sometimes puts it, and that operations are planned in advance in a legalistic fashion, raises questions. ...
A Los Angeles Times article once described John Rizzo as "the most influential career lawyer in CIA history," and he arguably knows more than anyone else in the government about the legal aspects of the CIA's targeted killings. But he stumbled into the world of espionage almost by accident. He graduated from George Washington University Law School and was living in D.C. in the 1970s when the Church committee released its report on the CIA's attempts to assassinate foreign leaders. Rizzo sensed an opportunity: "With all that going on, they'd need lawyers." He got a CIA job soon afterward.
Decades later, as the CIA's interrogations and lethal operations were ramped up after 9/11, Rizzo found himself at the center of controversy. He was, as he puts it, "up to my eyeballs" in President Bush's program of enhanced interrogations in the so-called black sites, or secret prisons, located in Afghanistan and in other countries. Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo wrote the infamous btorture memob of August 2002 because Rizzo had asked for clarification about techniques that could be used on detainees. Rizzo had once hoped to become the CIAbs general counsel, but members of the Senate intelligence committee balked because of the role he played in authorizing the interrogations. Rizzo retired in 2009.
Today, Rizzo can sometimes sound boastful. "How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?" he asks. He is quick to emphasize that the groundwork was prepared in a judicious manner, and felt it important that he observe the killing of some of the high-level terrorism suspects via live footage shown in CIA offices. "I was concerned that it be done in the cleanest possible way," he explains.
Clean, but always morally complex. Rizzo would sometimes find himself sitting in his office on the seventh floor of the CIA building [CIA headquarters executive offices] with a cable about a terrorism suspect in front of him, and he would wonder how his Irish-Italian parents would feel about his newly assigned duties.
Data on John Anthony Rizzo
John A Rizzo Age 63, 61
Results for 202-337-0273
[Eight associated names omitted]
John A. Rizzo - Lawyer Profile
Experience & Credentials
University Brown University, A.B.
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