[Marxism] Ex=FBI agent: Zero Dark Thirty is bullshit
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Sun Feb 24 12:17:26 MST 2013
NY Times February 22, 2013
Torture, Lies and Hollywood
By ALI H. SOUFAN
I WATCHED “Zero Dark Thirty” not as a former F.B.I. special agent who
spent a decade chasing, interrogating and prosecuting top members of Al
Qaeda but as someone who enjoys Hollywood movies. As a movie, I enjoyed
it. As history, it’s bunk.
The film opens with the words “Based on Firsthand Accounts of Actual
Events.” But the filmmakers immediately pass fiction off as history,
when a character named Ammar is tortured and afterward, it’s implied,
gives up information that leads to Osama bin Laden.
Ammar is a composite character who bears a strong resemblance to a
real-life terrorist, Ammar al-Baluchi. In both the film and real life he
was a relative of Bin Laden’s lieutenant, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. But
the C.I.A. has repeatedly said that only three detainees were ever
waterboarded. The real Mr. Baluchi was not among them, and he didn’t
give up information that led to Bin Laden.
In fact, torture led us away from Bin Laden. After Mr. Mohammed was
waterboarded 183 times, he actually played down the importance of the
courier who ultimately led us to Bin Laden. Numerous investigations,
most recently a 6,300-page classified report by the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence, have reached the same conclusion: enhanced
interrogation didn’t work. Portraying torture as effective risks
misleading the next generation of Americans that one of our government’s
greatest successes came about because of the efficacy of torture. It’s a
disservice both to our history and our national security.
While filmmakers have the right to say what they want, government
officials don’t have the right to covertly provide filmmakers with false
information to promote their own interests. Providing selective
information about a classified program means there is no free market of
ideas, but a controlled market subject to manipulation. That’s an abuse
John O. Brennan, a former C.I.A. official and now President Obama’s
nominee to head the agency, recently testified that the classified
report raised “serious questions” about information he received when he
was the agency’s deputy executive director. Mr. Brennan said publicly
what many of us — who were in interrogation rooms when the program was
devised — have been warning about for years: senior officials, right up
to the president himself, were misled about the enhanced interrogation
For instance, a 2005 Justice Department memo claimed that waterboarding
led to the capture of the American-born Qaeda member Jose Padilla in
2003. Actually, he was arrested in 2002, months before waterboarding
began, after an F.B.I. colleague and I got details about him from a
terrorist named Abu Zubaydah. Because no one checked the dates, the
canard about Mr. Padilla was repeated as truth.
When agents heard senior officials citing information we knew was false,
we were barred from speaking out. After President George W. Bush gave a
speech containing falsehoods in 2006 — I believe his subordinates lied
to him — I was told by one of my superiors: “This is still classified.
Just because the president is talking about it doesn’t mean that we can.”
Some of these memos, and reports pointing out their inaccuracies, have
been declassified, but they are also heavily redacted. So are books on
the subject, including my own.
Meanwhile, promoters of torture get to hoodwink journalists, authors and
Hollywood producers while selectively declassifying material and
providing false information that fits their narrative.
The creators of “Zero Dark Thirty” attempted to document the greatest
global manhunt of our generation. But they did so without acknowledging
that their “history” was based on dubious sources.
The filmmakers took the “firsthand accounts” of a few current and former
officials with an agenda and amplified their message worldwide —
suggesting to Americans in cinemas around the country, and regimes
overseas, that torture is effective and helped lead to Bin Laden. There
is no suggestion in the movie that another narrative exists.
Hollywood is primarily about entertainment. The moral responsibility for
setting history straight, ensuring the public isn’t misled, and making
sure mistakes aren’t repeated falls to Congress and the president. Yet
the Senate report remains classified, and only those with security
clearances, like Mr. Brennan, can read how the public was misled.
It’s the duty of the president and Congress to responsibly declassify
the report — and the other documents that advocates of torture don’t
That’s the only way to ensure that future generations won’t ever go down
that dark and dangerous path again. As Senator John McCain has said, the
Senate report “has the potential to set the record straight once and for
all” and end “a stain on our country’s conscience.”
Once that’s done, it won’t be long before another Hollywood movie comes
along to tell the real story about how America killed Bin Laden.
Ali H. Soufan is a former F.B.I. special agent who interrogated Qaeda
detainees and the author of “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11
and the War Against al-Qaeda.”
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