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The CIA Goes to the Movies

December 26th, 2012 - 11:15 am

In case anybody doubted that the United States is in the grips of collective idiocy, consider that the head of our “secret intelligence service” has just issued a movie review of a new film about the operation that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.  In that review–nominally written for all CIA employees but quickly distributed to all manner of media around the world–we are given  Acting Director Michael Morell’s heads-up that Zero Dark Thirty is not a documentary, that the film compresses years of hard work into a couple of hours on the screen, that it “takes liberties” describing some CIA personnel (including some who died in the effort), and that “enhanced interrogations” (waterboarding, sleep deprivation, etcetera) of captured terrorists were not the only source of the information that led to the operation.

It’s embarrassing.  Everybody knows that feature films are not documentaries, and that when you dramatize a decade in a few hours of on-screen action, it’s not going to be the whole truth.  We don’t need the CIA to tell us that.  Indeed, we shouldn’t be hearing from him at all.  It’s supposed to be a secret organization.  If some journalist asks about such a subject, the CIA spokesperson (if there should even be such a thing) should say:  “We don’t do movie reviews.  We do espionage.”

But in this loony town, everybody’s angling for good press, lest they suffer death-by-media-scandal.  And everybody’s worried to death about the last big thing, which in this case is Benghazi, which you’ll recall was originally presented as having begun with angry riots on the Arab Street, provoked by a video trailer.  Mr. Morell is clearly worried that there will be riots protesting the “enhanced interrogation” scenes, so he gives us an example of tortured prose:

the film creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding Bin Ladin.  That impression is false.  As we have said before, the truth is that multiple streams of intelligence led CIA analysts to conclude that Bin Ladin was hiding in Abbottabad.  Some came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques, but there were many other sources as well.  And, importantly, whether enhanced interrogation techniques were the only timely and effective way to obtain information from those detainees, as the film suggests, is a matter of debate that cannot and never will be definitively resolved.

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