Friday, September 2, 2011
In 2007, candidate-Barack Obama pledged “a top to bottom review of the threats we face and our abilities to confront them.” Obama promised a sweeping overhaul of the Bush administration’s draconian “war on terror” which Obama said compromised American values.
But FRONTLINE learned from John Rizzo, a 34-year agency veteran that Obama’s team had “signaled” they had no intention of rolling back secret programs begun under the Bush administration.
I was part of the transition briefings of the incoming Obama team, and they signaled fairly early on that the incoming president believed in a vigorous, aggressive, continuing counterterrorism effort. Although they never said it exactly, it was clear that the interrogation program was going away. We all knew that.
But his people were signaling to us, I think partly to try to assure us that they weren’t going to come in and dismantle the place, that they were going to be just as tough, if not tougher, than the Bush people.
Rizzo, who was forced to withdraw his nomination to be CIA general counsel because of controversy over his role in developing the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation policies, also told FRONTLINE:
With a notable exception of the enhanced interrogation program, the incoming Obama administration changed virtually nothing with respect to existing CIA programs and operations. Things continued. Authorities were continued that were originally granted by President Bush beginning shortly after 9/11. Those were all picked up, reviewed and endorsed by the Obama administration.
The FRONTLINE documentary “Top Secret America,” is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2011.