September 25, 2007

Administration Withdraws Nomination for CIA General Counsel

Wyden had a public hold on controversial nominee

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a senior member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today welcomed the administration's decision to withdraw the nomination of John Rizzo to be General Counsel of the CIA.

"I opposed the nomination of John Rizzo to be the top lawyer at the CIA because he is the wrong man for the job," Wyden said. "I hope that the Administration's next nominee for the position demonstrates greater respect for the rule of law and a firmer commitment to making sure that our nation's counterterrorism programs have the strong legal foundation that they deserve."

In August, Wyden announced that he was putting a public hold on the nomination, citing his concerns about Rizzo's track record as the long-time Acting General Counsel of the CIA. The General Counsel of the CIA is responsible for ensuring that all CIA activities are legal and that CIA employees do not misinterpret the law. Wyden's primary concerns about Rizzo included his willingness to rely on questionable legal analysis and his failure to ensure adequate oversight of the nation's counterterrorism programs.

Following his August announcement, Wyden reached out to his colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee in order to rally opposition to Rizzo's nomination. The nomination was withdrawn prior to a Committee vote.

"I won't speak for my colleagues on the Committee," said Wyden. "But I think that it is fair to say that I was not the only one with significant concerns about Rizzo's nomination."

During his confirmation hearing, Rizzo told Wyden that he didn't regret his decision not to object to an August 2002 memo which argued that inflicting physical pain short of organ failure does not constitute torture. Wyden responded that this interpretation was "clearly over the line."

In July, Wyden expressed concern about what he characterized as a lack of legal oversight in the drafting of the CIA's new classified guidelines governing interrogation.

"I am not convinced that these techniques are effective and I am certainly not convinced that they are legal," Wyden said. "It is the CIA General Counsel's job to ensure that this program and others like it comply with U.S. law, not to contrive creative legal arguments to support whatever the President wants to do."

Wyden met with Rizzo yesterday, at which point he reiterated his opposition to the nomination.