Friday, March 14, 2014


Counterterrorism Center
I'll be meeting two spymasters on Friday, March 21, 2014 at the Association OfFormer Intelligence Officer's Winter Luncheon in Tysons Corner, VA.  At 1 p.m. John Rizzo, the former Acting General Counsel of the CIA will give a talk about his book "Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA". He became the most influential career lawyer in CIA history, involved in proxy wars in Central America in the 1970s to recent drone strikes in Pakistan.
     In 1975 he graduated from law school and worked boring jobs at the Treasury Department, probably the reason he "took a shot in the dark" and applied to the CIA. At the time, he didn't realize that he would dedicate over thirty years to the secretive agency and serve under eleven CIA directors, seven U.S. presidents, and become a notorious public figure spawned by the contaminated atmosphere enveloping the Intelligence Community (IC) during the post-9/11 years. He approved the rules that governed waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" and not only witnessed, but participated in virtually all of the CIA's significant operations during his long career with the agency.
     In his book 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. He 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.
     Then, in the afternoon, I have the privilege of listening to a talk given by Phillip Mudd, Former Deputy Director of National Security with the FBI and Former Deputy Director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center. He will talk about his book "Takedown: Inside the Hunt for Al Qaida". Mudd was promoted to the position of Deputy Director of the Center in 2003 and served there until 2005, when FBI Director Mueller appointed him as the first-ever deputy director of the National Security Branch in 2005.  He later became the FBI's Senior Intelligence Adviser and then resigned from government service in March 2010.
     On 9/11, when he was a CIA analyst, he knew his life would change as an employee of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). Fifteen years before 9/11, he interpreted raw intelligence and reported his findings to national security policy makers. Soon after the al Qaeda attack on America, he found himself on military aircraft flying over the Hindu Kush Mountains en route to Afghanistan go help bolster the fledgling government there after U.S. forces toppled the Taliban.
     Later, he was promoted to Deputy Director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, then to Senior Advisor at the FBI. I can't wait to hear his talk and learn about the inner working of these two agencies in the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).
     Mudd knows much about how Al Qaeda was perceived by the CIA and FBI over a decade ago and how these IC agencies view the terrorist organization today. It has morphed from a core Al Qaeda leadership into a maze of affiliated groups and a network of homegrown violent extremists dwelling in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. As a participant in and a witness to key strategic initiatives- including the hunt for Osama bin Laden and efforts to displace the Taliban- Mudd has an insider's perspective on the relationships between the White House, the State Department, and national security agencies before and after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. With his beginnings in the IC as an analyst, he knows how intelligence analysts understand and evaluate potential dangers and communicate them to political leaders.
     I posed a question to Phillip Mudd on C-SPAN: "Which agency do you think should conduct domestic surveillance, the FBI or CIA?" Interesting response! Can't wait to see and hear him in person this coming Friday.

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