James P. Petrila

James P. Petrila

James P. Petrila

Professorial Lecturer in Law


2000 H Street, NW Washington DC 20052

Jim Petrila retired from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in late 2018, where he practiced in the Office of General Counsel for 25 years. During his last several years at the CIA, he was responsible for the management and oversight of attorneys within the CIA’s Operations Directorate. He regularly provided advice and counsel to senior agency leaders on a broad variety of legal and policy issues. 

Mr. Petrila's legal background and experience addressed cutting edge legal issues across a broad range of issues, including counterterrorism and technical collection operations. He had considerable experience in working with senior lawyers in the intelligence community, together with frequent engagement with congressional oversight committees on a variety of controversial issues. 

Mr. Petrila served as Deputy Legal Advisor at the National Security Council from 2013 to 2015. During that time, his responsibilities included serving as the legal advisor to the White House Ebola Task Force, as well as dealing with the legal aspects of a number of significant foreign policy issues. Throughout his career, he provided regular briefings and training modules to CIA officers on such topics as Executive Order 12333, counterterrorism and related authorities, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Mr. Petrila has been a Professorial Lecturer in Law at George Washington University School of Law since 2019.

Mr. Petrila holds a JD from the University of Virginia (1982), as well as a master’s degree from Stanford University in Russian History. He has a BA from Knox College, in Galesburg, Illinois, with a major in Russian Studies.

BA, Knox College; MA, Stanford University; JD, University of Virginia