[Marxism] Ex=FBI agent: Zero Dark Thirty is bullshit

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Feb 24 12:17:40 MST 2013

NY Times February 22, 2013
Torture, Lies and Hollywood

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 
of power.

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 
want released.

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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