CIA General Counsel Nominee Stands By Torture

Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a confirmation hearing for John Rizzo, President Bush’s nominee to become the C.I.A.’s general counsel.

Rizzo has served as an acting general counsel “off and on for the past six years, serving without Senate confirmation.” During his tenure, the CIA has engaged in a wide variety of highly questionable and potentially illegal interrogation practices.

In 2002, Rizzo approved of a memo drafted by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that stretched the definition of torture in order to make torture permissible in the course of an interrogation. To be torture, the Bybee memo concluded, physical pain must be “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”

Sen. Ron Wyden asked Rizzo at the hearing, “Do you think you should have objected at the time?” to the Bybee definition of torture. Rizzo answered, “I honestly — I can’t say I should have objected at the time.” To which Wyden replied, “I think that’s unfortunate because it seems to me that language on a very straightforward reading is over the line. And that’s what I think all of us wanted to hear — is that you wish you had objected.” Watch it:



Also during the hearing, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) asked Rizzo “whether we’ve ever rendered detainees to countries which use torture.” Rizzo said “it’s difficult to give a yes or no answer” in a public hearing and asked that he provide an answer in closed session. Levin noted that in Dec. 2005, Bush said “we do not render to countries that use torture.”