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Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA Hardcover – January 7, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In 1975, the author, a lawyer working for the U.S. Customs Service, applied—pretty much on a whim—to join the CIA. This fascinating memoir takes us through Rizzo’s three-decade-long career as a CIA lawyer, a career that has included being the liaison between Congress and the CIA during the Iran-Contra affair and becoming an international celebrity—not that he sought such notoriety—through his involvement with the so-called torture tapes, recordings of the alleged torture of an al-Qaeda operative, which were destroyed amid great controversy by the agency. Rizzo’s intimate knowledge of the company’s post-9/11 activities makes his book must reading for today’s political junkies, but he had been with the agency more than 25 years before the 2001 terror attacks, and his portrait of the CIA from the 1970s through the ’90s is fascinating on its own terms, portraying an intelligence organization that was dealing with internal strife and trying to decide how to adapt to stricter new regulations, even as the world was growing into a darker, more frightening place. As insider looks go, this one is about as close-up as you can get. --David Pitt


“CIA Directors have come and gone over the past several decades. There were two constants at the agency: crises and John Rizzo in the Office of General Counsel helping to manage them. A larger than life character, with great style, nobody worked harder to protect the nation and the men and women of CIA than John Rizzo. Company Man offers fresh insights into the some of the most highly debated national security issues of our time, from the perspective of an honest and dedicated public servant. It is a must read for those trying to understand some very important moments in the history of the CIA.” (George J. Tenet, Former Director of Central Intelligence)

“A wonderful book by a man who was in the eye of the storm for thirty-four years. Told with humor and unfailing appreciation for the politics of espionage, Company Man is the best book out there on the modern CIA.” (Robert Baer, New York Times-bestselling author of See No Evil and The Perfect Kill)

“John Rizzo has seen it all in his 30 years as a CIA lawyer, and he tells the truth in this absorbing, well-written memoir of his life as a Company Man. Think of Tom Hagen, the Corleone family lawyer in "The Godfather," and you begin to get the flavor of what Rizzo had seen and heard. He draws vivid portraits of the agency's great characters and their sometimes outrageous schemes. The best thing about the book is that you sense Rizzo never stopped being a lawyer or trying to give his clients good, straight-up advice. If you're interested in the inside life of the CIA, read this book!” (David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and New York Times-bestselling author of Body of Lies)

"John Rizzo, formerly the CIA's top attorney, has superbly captured the scope of his fascinating career in Company Man. Not only does he cover the major espionage and covert action of the decades he served, he also conveys an enduring and critical lesson for all liberal democracies--the centrality of the rule of law at the nexus of foreign policy and intelligence. John, who always provided clear and honest counsel to the CIA's Clandestine Service, has crafted an important book with the same sense of intellectual integrity and duty." (Ambassador Henry A. Crumpton, New York Times-bestselling author of The Art of Intelligence, Chairman & CEO of Crumpton Group LLC and 24-year veteran of the CIA's Clandestine Ser)

“When the CIA was in trouble, big trouble, it called John… Rizzo knows where the bodies are buried because he helped stash them. Company Man reads like the CIA's conscience: what the CIA was thinking as it shifted from collecting information to killing terrorists after 9/11. Why did the CIA violently interrogate suspects and then destroy the evidence? Rizzo knows, and he's talking.” (Richard Engel, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent and author of War Journal)

Company Man is simply the most revealing insider account to date of the top ranks of the CIA during its most historic--and controversial--era. There is news and humor in every chapter. Frankly, I often found myself wondering why the CIA's pre-publication censors signed off on some of it.” (Dana Priest, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post and co-author of Top S)

“[A] lively memoir of life and work inside the nation’s intelligence headquarters.” (Publisher's Weekly)

“Under seven presidents and 11 different CIA directors, Rizzo rose to become the CIA’s most powerful career attorney… [he] accumulated more than 30 years of war stories, and he tells most of them…[Rizzo] clearly loved his job and, readers conclude, served the agency and his country well.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Must reading for today’s political junkies…. As insider looks go, this one is about as close-up as you can get.” (Booklist)

“[A] revealing and funny memoir…. Rizzo provides a clear, detailed account of his decision-making and his role in the C.I.A.’s interrogation program…. Rizzo’s memoir is an important contribution.” (Steve Coll The New Yorker “Daily Comment”)

“Revealing… Whatever conclusion you draw, Rizzo's book makes an important contribution to history and the debate over interrogation…. Company Man is tailor-made for CIA buffs. Rizzo's career as an agency lawyer spanned the decades from Iran-Contra to drones, with Russian turncoat Aldrich Ames, the rise of al-Qaida…. His book manages to strike notes that are both earnest and candid. That alone sets Company Man apart in the genre.” (Matt Apuzzo Associated Press)

"A gripping story." (New York Times Book Review)

"Both students and lay readers of American politics should find considerable value in this memoir." (Library Journal)

"Rizzo's memoir often reads like a good spy novel." (Andrea Mitchell, NBC's Today Show)

“A gripping, affecting and revelatory story.” (The Age (Australia))

“John Rizzo takes readers deep inside Langley.... Informative and mordantly witty, [Rizzo] … reveals fascinating details … and does not hesitate to peer into the future with an insider’s prediction that ought to command our attention.” (Boston Globe)

"Few books have this scope or insider perspective on the CIA. Rizzo seems to have been there for everything — from Iran-contra to Valerie Plame to the arrival of President Obama. And that makes Company Man a front-row seat on the hidden world of intelligence over the past 30 years.... Rizzo rose from humble beginnings to become a fixture in national intelligence.... An atlas to navigate the dark, murky morality that governs the business of intelligence." (Dina Temple-Raston Washington Post)

"Emphatically a book for anyone who cares about the security of this country and about how the political classes treat those charged with protecting it." (Michael Mukasey Wall Street Journal)

“Anyone who reads spy novels or political thrillers will find the real-life version of both in this book… A big, important story, covering many years of our country's secret history. It's told well; it's gripping and intense and feels like the truth. Rizzo has a knack for turning events into story, for bypassing hysteria and discovering history.” (Bookotron)

“Fascinating and insightful… A unique and refreshing perspective… a surprising page-turner.” (Fredericksburg Freelance Star)

“Rizzo saw and heard a lot. The astonishing roster of his bosses begins with William Colby, followed by George H.?W. Bush, Stansfield Turner, William Casey, William Webster, Robert Gates, James Woolsey, John Deutch, George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Leon Panetta. Rizzo’s portraits of these individuals in action—some of them legendary figures in the history of American espionage—make this memoir worth the price of admission. But Company Man also holds interest for the light it sheds on a variety of quasi-secret subjects, some of them highly controversial.” (Gabriel Schoenfeld The Weekly Standard)

“[A] remarkable career… Rizzo is a good story-teller… I liked this book very much …. one man whose story is wrapped up in the many twists and turns of the CIA’s modern history of triumph, failure, and scandal, and whose personal story offers an important window into why those triumphs, failures, and scandals probably can’t ever be separated.” (Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare Blog)

“An exceptionally valuable resource. What this book does well, among other things, is explain the inner workings of the processes of the most controversial CIA programs of the past decade…. Reading John Rizzo’s book, and being more familiar with the scope of law within the area of national security law would help citizens and reporters to process the actions and accusations of our nation’s elected and appointed leaders…. Company Man is an excellent read." (Tobias T. Gibson, Law and Politics Book Review)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451673930
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451673937
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Raymond on January 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I heard about Rizzo's book on NPR, and then read the excerpt from it on Politico. His revelations about how the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (AKA what some call torture) came to be approved by the CIA and Justice Department is getting lots of attention. No matter where you fall politically, Rizzo's account is pretty gripping. What would you do, as a CIA lawyer, in a post-9/11 environment, if your operatives came to you and said, "We need these methods to get vital information." But beyond the War on Terror chapters, this is really a history of the CIA over the past 30 years. Rizzo sheds light on a range of fascinating CIA moments (and outrageous miscues), from Iran Contra, to Aldrich Ames, to Valerie Plame and dozens of others. He may not have been a spy operating out of some far flung outpost, but Rizzo makes the day-to-day functioning of the agency seem interesting in its own right--how the CIA deals with presidents (of all political stripes), Congress, the Justice Department, etc. He's a good writer. There's a lot of voice and personality--not dry at all. Armchair CIA buffs like me, those interested in the law -- you will find a lot to like here, even if you don't like Rizzo's politics.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Fred Manget on January 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Rizzo's book, "Company Man", is much like the author himself: smart, insightful, wry, self-deprecating, funny, and charming. I spent a quarter-century working for, with, and around John Rizzo at CIA, and I recommend the book to anyone who would like an insider's view of some of the most remarkable and now public national security episodes at the highest levels of the U.S. government during the last thirty years.

Rizzo arrived at CIA in 1976 as a dark-haired naif with a vague notion that intelligence law might be more interesting than the drudgery at the U.S. Customs Service in the Treasury Department that he had been doing fresh out of law school.

He was right about that. He left thirty-plus years later with his hair white and his personal file full of some of the most fascinating things a lawyer could ever do.

He almost immediately began a long and mutual love affair with the directorate at CIA whose mission includes acquiring secrets, catching spies, and stopping terrorists. It has been known by various names, most of the time being called the Directorate of Operations (the "DO") and now clumsily relabeled the National Clandestine Service. He rose up through the ranks of the career attorneys at CIA by dint of three characteristics lacking in most lawyers: a sense of humor, good nature, and an uncanny sense of how to successfully maneuver among a cacophony of competing equity holders both inside and outside of the Agency. He was a true adept.

His career was bracketed from beginning to end by deep involvement in the law, lore, and politics of covert action, much beloved by the seven presidents he served.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jan E Messerschmidt on January 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
As an aspiring government lawyer, John Rizzo's book is an eye-opening memoir. Though I'm sure much of the attention will be paid to Rizzo's controversial decisions after 9/11, particularly the decisions regarding the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, some of the most interesting parts of the book are Rizzo's lengthy path and rise through the ranks at the CIA. Understandably, there is much that Rizzo could not disclose. But despite this, Rizzo shows a surprising frankness about some of his closest colleagues that is both enlightening and refreshing. Rizzo's memoir is a true page turner and a resource for understanding the CIA, especially during it's toughest times.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amy G. on January 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Rizzo makes this an easy read with his writing style and a little bit of humor. But the bottom line is, if you have an interest in CIA, secrets behind the government, politics, conspiracies or government things that make the headlines you will like this book. Its seems to me the people that have given this book a bad review just simply don't like his politics and disagree with Rizzo not putting a stop to water boarding. So therefor give the book of one of the guys involved a bad review. Now I call that being political! I have read books and autobiographies of people I don't like or agree with, but I am strong enough and fair enough to still be honest and say they made a good book. It doesn't mean you have to agree with the person or things they did. Geeesh!
Anyway, back to what makes this a good book. As information finally gets told or leaked over years passing from various events it can be concluded there are THOUSANDS of things we, the public, don't know about. And I am fine with that. History shows some events that if there weren't a few people willing to stick their neck out, that America would not be the same great place. This era of "everybody needs to know everything all the time" is a detriment to America. Just my opinion, I will admit and say. Classified papers and issues, events just might be keeping you, your children, your Grandma, or....... quite possibly...... your great grandchildren you haven't even met yet SAFE! This is an interesting read to hear from a lawyer who had to make some tough decisions that affected America. He wasn't a spy or out traveling the world, but a boring lawyer that got to see and be in on some VERY interesting things, even making decisions on some of them. Which makes him a little more normal and down to earth of a guy to consider, than a fancy spy type. Good book.
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