President Barack Obama plans to nominate Stephen Preston, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, to be the Central Intelligence Agency’s next general counsel, the White House says.
As the CIA’s top legal officer, Preston would be responsible for helping to answer some of the most pressing questions in the country on national security. For example, the controversial Justice Department memos released today regarding interrogation methods were addressed to John Rizzo, a longtime top CIA lawyer who is acting general counsel of the agency.
The nomination requires Senate approval, and Preston is likely to face questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee about the legality of waterboarding and other techniques now considered by the Justice Department to be torture. The CIA has not had a permanent general counsel in several years, in part because some senators did not agree with Rizzo's answers about interrogation during his 2007 confirmation hearing.
Preston (Yale, Harvard Law) served in several national security positions during the Clinton administration, including general counsel of the Navy and principal deputy general counsel and acting general counsel of the Defense Department. He also worked in appellate litigation in the Justice Department.
Other than the seven years he spent in the Defense and Justice departments, Preston has been at Wilmer since 1986, according to the firm. He is co-chair, with Wilmer partner Jamie Gorelick, of the Defense, National Security, and Government Contracts Practice Group.