John Rizzo, a veteran lawyer for the CIA, says President Barack Obama's ending of some counterterrorism policies, including torture policies established after the 2001 terrorist attacks, was a "real slur" against the agency.
"Hundreds of people in the agency had worked selflessly and under very difficult conditions, both physical conditions in these prisons and also political conditions doing what they thought was protecting the country," Rizzo, 34, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"To be written off as torturers and basically being told that what all these people were doing was contrary to American values was a real slur on the men and women of the CIA," he said.
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In 2009, Obama reversed some of the most controversial counterterrorism policies established by President George W. Bush.
He said the nation's "ideals give us the strength and moral high ground" in the ongoing battle against al-Qaida.
But Rizzo, author of the new book "Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA,"
published by Scribner, adds that the president's edict contradicts his approval of the use of drones to kill terrorists.
"The Obama administration doubled down on the drone program, so their post-9/11 policy seems to be we don't want to catch a terrorist and interrogate them — and after all, that's how you find out about any possible new attacks — but we're going to kill them, he said.
"You can't get intelligence from a dead man. So, it's moral outrage all those years over aggressive questioning, all the while seemingly, until recently, not a peep from the media or the human-rights groups about killing them. I mean I just found that just dissonant."
Decisions to use torture don't come easy, Rizzo said.
"Just a few months after 9/11, we had just captured our first high-ranking al-Qaida terrorist, a guy named Abu Zubaydah, who was basically the traffic cop for al-Qaida," he said.
"If there was going to be another imminent attack, he was going to know about and he was basically telling our interrogators we couldn't make him talk under just question-and-answer. So, what were we to do?
"We didn't have the luxury of time, so our experts came up with this list of proposed techniques that . . . [came from the] training manual the Department of Defense had been operating with for years and years."
Rizzo says he could have stopped the process right there by telling his bosses the techniques could get the agency in "huge" trouble.
"But . . . I was not prepared to have to live with myself if we drew back, if we were 'risk averse' and then there was another attack and it turns out this guy Zubaydah knew all about it and we didn't let him talk.
"Sometimes, 12 years later, everyone seems to forget about what the atmosphere in the country was.
Rizzo believes in the use of drones to fight terrorists, but not only drones.
"Killing them is fine, but you won't learn about the next attack by simply wiping them out. You've got to capture them," he said.
"And if it takes aggressive interrogation, then, as a citizen, I would want my government and my country to do that, and we don't have that anymore."
Of all the presidents Rizzo has served under, he was least impressed with Bill Clinton.
"[He was] most apathetic about intelligence . . . He didn't care about the CIA," he said.
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