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 30 years later, after serving under 11 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 never-ending 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.
©2014 John Rizzo (P)2014 Tantor
"As insider looks go, this one is about as close-up as you can get." (Booklist)
Company Man should be read at two levels, and is successful at both. First, it's a memoir of the CIA's chief lawyer (General Counsel) and his 30-plus years worth of stories, impressions, and characterizations of people he met (Presidents, Secretaries, CIA Directors and many more). As a lawyer, he was often at the center of CIA's most public successes and failures, and everything in between. Note the emphasis on the word "public." All Agency retirees (and indeed, anyone leaving CIA's employ for any reason) is legally obligated (by contract) to submit any written material to a review board to check for classified material, which is usually not permitted. So this is not a journalistic tell-all. But it provides an accurate, honest, and surprisingly well-written view into the organization from the late 1970s through the mid-2000s. If you're a fan of such memoirs, this is for you.
The second level is as a defense of Rizzo's (and the Agency's as a whole) actions during the "torture controversy." If you believe that the "Extended Interrogation Techniques" as described in the press, and in the book as well, are torture and should never have been countenanced, you will find much to disagree with. If you're on Rizzo's side, that the techniques, while most unsettling and problematic, were not torture and were legal (i.e., approved by the government process that was used by all executive agencies to determine legality), then you'll be cheering him on. Perhaps you're one of the three people in the world who has not judged the actions and events; if so, I believe you'll find a rich cache of information to help you decide.
The narration was flawless, such that I truly believed it was Rizzo talking to me.
John Rizzo falls into the category of an accidental patriot. He was a good man in the right place at the right time who played an important part of quite a few historically important events. Fortunately, he is also an excellent writer who chose to tell us about them.
Rizzo's peek into the workings of the CIA is great. Through this book we get a glimpse into the people and politics that run the largest intelligence operation in the world. We also learn about the restraints that agency operates under.
The history of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques is fascinating. You will learn exactly how the CIA established the program, cleared it legally, then were thrown under the bus by people looking to make political points.
The real eye opener here is how politics plays an incredibly large role in an agency who's job should be apolitical. Give this book a shot, then decide for yourself whether politicians are compromising national security in the name politics.
Company Man is a very good story that will keep you interested. But this is non-fiction. If you are looking for a Clancy or Brown here, you are going to be diapointed.
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