TODAY   |  January 10, 2014

John Rizzo reflects on legacy as CIA ‘Company Man’

Veteran CIA Lawyer John Rizzo talks with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell about all of the scandals and tough decisions he has faced during his career, and his new memoir about them, “Company Man.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now to a rare and revealing look into the controversial history of the cia . the agency's former top attorney john rizzo is out with a new book called "company man." andrea mitchell got the chance to sit down with him. this is a very interesting guy.

>> it is, indeed. he is an interesting guy. good morning, willie. for the first time this is an insider account of the cia company man and the key decisions that led to waterboarding and other techniques later outlawed all from this veteran cia lawyer who offers no apologies and few regrets.

>> reporter: even at the spy musician, john rizzo is no james bond . but he is the ultimate company man. a lead cia lawyer during decades occasionally marred by scandal, and post 9/11 interrogation practices later outlawed.

>> extraordinary measures had to be taken.

>> you mean what was later decided to be torture?

>> no. if it had been torture, we wouldn't have done it.

>> reporter: the cia helped hollywood recreate the waterboarding in "zero dark thirty."

>> but the origin of the program really started at cia ?

>> oh, absolutely. with you?

>> with me and a few others.

>> do you have any second thoughts about that?

>> no.

>> rizzo came to the cia in the 1970s . the agency orchestrated a daring escape.

>> the ben affleck character was fairly close.

>> there were few heroes in the cia during the iran contra scandal .

>> it was not an exercise in good judgment.

>> an illegal cia and white house operation revealed by the attorney general.

>> i know of no other resignations contemplated or requested.

>> rizzo 's job was to explain it to an angry congress.

>> i was learning it at the same time the american people were.

>> reporter: he saw it all. from the hunt for cia mole aldridge ames to 9/11, the valerie plame case and wmds.

>> how close to reality is something like "homeland"?

>> the character that she plays in the series reminded me of several similar types i met during the course of my cia career.

>> they told you everything, didn't they?

>> does he remind you of yourself?

>> no. there are no lawyers in "homeland." probably would've made for a duller series.

>> his career was cut short over the controversy over waterboarding .

>> i told the truth. thank you.

>> but he leaves with no regrets.

>> what if there'd been a second attack? how could i live with myself if that were the case?

>> how can you live with yourself knowing that what you did and what you got approved by the justice department was to many people, not only morally repugnant, but illegal?

>> looking back on the times and what i had to do, my conscience is clear.

>> rizzo 's memoir often reads like a good spy novel . a cia veterans account from iran contra to drones.

>> a guy at the center of a lot of american history for better or for