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John Rizzo Speaks at National Security Law Symposium

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Last spring, over 120 people attended Pepperdine Law Review’s annual symposium in Malibu, California, and dozens more viewed it live via Internet streaming. The event “The Future of National Security Law,” featured multiple panelists with backgrounds in military law, diplomacy, and intelligence. The featured speaker was former general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Rizzo.

Rizzo had a 34-year career as a CIA lawyer, including seven years as chief legal officer. In the post-9/11 era, Rizzo helped create and implement aggressive counterterrorist operations against al-Qaeda. He is the author of Company Man, a look at his years with the agency.

Symposium commentators discussed whether the United States’ separation-of-powers system is under stress after more than a decade of conflict against al-Qaeda and associated forces. On the international front, America’s transnational conflict against non-state actors was observed to have placed significant strain on international human rights law and the law of armed conflict.

The symposium closed with a sweeping look at surveillance, big data, and the evolution of related laws, such as the controversy and challenges that arose from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaking of stolen classified documents.

Rizzo commented on a range of topics, from the CIA interrogation program—“To the extent that CIA got hits, we deserved them”—to Snowden. Rizzo remarked that he sees no evidence that Snowden is a “traitor.”