In Unusual Step, Human Rights Groups Oppose CIA Nominee

Sep 11, 2007, 01:00 ET from Open Society Policy Center

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Human rights groups and
 advocacy organizations have urged the U.S. Senate to reject the nomination
 of John Rizzo to serve as General Counsel of the Central Intelligence
 Agency (CIA) because of his stated views on torture.
     In a letter to the members of the Senate Select Committee on
 Intelligence, the human rights and advocacy groups cited Rizzo's testimony
 before the committee in June, during which he said that he had not raised
 any objections to the August 2002 legal memorandum on torture prepared by
 the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Even in hindsight, he
 told the Senators, he does not feel that he should have objected to the
     Rizzo has served as acting chief legal officer at the CIA on several
 occasions including the most recent period of July 2004 to the present.
     The now infamous "torture memo" has been widely discredited. It sparked
 an outcry when it came to light in 2004 for both its effort to redefine
 torture in an absurdly narrow way and for its radical claim that the
 President, as Commander-in-Chief, need not abide by laws that prohibit
     In his confirmation hearing in June, Rizzo testified that he found the
 memo "persuasive."
     In their letter, sent to the Senate on September 6, the groups state
 that "[t]he American people relied on him -- as did the President and Mr.
 Rizzo's colleagues at the CIA -- to say "no" when offered specious legal
 theories redefining torture and arguing that the President can disregard
 duly adopted criminal statutes." To view the letter in its entirety, visit
     The groups -- Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, Physicians for
 Human Rights, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and the Open
 Society Policy Center -- urged the committee to reject Rizzo's nomination
 on the basis of his testimony regarding the torture memo. These
 organizations rarely take positions on executive branch nominees.
     The human rights and advocacy groups noted that other executive branch
 lawyers risked the ire of their superiors and possibly their careers when
 they objected to questionable legal theories and abusive interrogations.
     "When Mr. Rizzo failed to object to legal arguments that defended
 torture, he failed to protect his clients -- the President, his CIA
 colleagues and the American people. He compounded this failure by
 effectively telling the Committee that he would do the same thing again,"
 they wrote. Confirming Mr. Rizzo to this position of trust, they said,
 would send an extraordinarily negative message to the world.

SOURCE Open Society Policy Center