John Rizzo, Former Top CIA Lawyer, Says John Brennan Never Objected To Waterboarding

NEW YORK -- CIA nominee John Brennan never expressed concerns to the CIA's top lawyer about interrogation techniques, including waterboarding and other forms of torture, according to John Rizzo, the agency's acting general counsel during the George W. Bush presidency.

Rizzo, a career CIA lawyer who retired in 2009, made his comments Monday night at a panel discussion on the film "Zero Dark Thirty" at Cardozo Law School, hosted by Jeffrey Brown, an anchor at PBS Newshour. Brennan, nominated to head the CIA, said during his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he finds such interrogation tactics "reprehensible" and that he objected internally during the Bush administration.

Rizzo said he heard no moral objections from either the FBI or elsewhere to the CIA's techniques. When asked specifically about Brennan, he answered: "John Brennan is a longtime friend. I hope and trust he will be confirmed. I think he'll be an excellent CIA director."

Rizzo, choosing his words carefully, continued: "But the fact of the matter is, he never told -- he never expressed any concerns to me -- and my office was 15 feet away from his. I would have liked to have thought he would have done so, or at least I would have heard about them, because that would have had a great impact on me, because I have great respect for him."

Rizzo said he never heard secondhand complaints either. "I just never heard from him directly or ever heard that he had expressed any concerns to colleagues. I've talked to other agency veterans. Because to tell you the truth, it did mean something to me. It would have been something I would have wanted to know at the time. And I can't find anybody who remembers that," he said.

Brennan said he did raise concerns.

"I had expressed my personal objections and views to some agency colleagues about certain of those EIT's, such as waterboarding, nudity and others where I professed my personal objections to it," he told senators last week. "But I did not try to stop it because it was something that was being done in a different part of the agency."

Rizzo was the CIA acting general counsel from 2001 to 2002 and from 2004 until he retired in 2009. President George W. Bush nominated him to be the general counsel in 2007, but the nomination was blocked by Senate Democrats, who objected to his approval of torture.

Protests Against Drones