Saturday, December 22, 2012
The CIA acting Director Michael Morrell stated on Friday that he takes exception with the movie Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal. Morrell disputes that the torture of al-Qaeda detainees produced any valuable information. He is following the lead of several senators on the intelligence committee -- the folks who would have to pass his nomination as permanent director. This viewpoint is directly contradicted by Jose Rodriguez, a former head of the CIA clandestine service and the man who oversaw the detention program. Rodriguez states that waterboarding did indeed produce valuable information. In his memoir Hard Measures, Rodriguez writes that black sites did produce information that ultimately helped lead to the capture of UBL. So who is telling the truth? Clearly, Rodriguez seeks to clear his reputation. But he is out of the game now, so is this really a personal agenda, or is the current administration perhaps too afraid to admit the accuracy of what Rodriguez and Zero Dark Thirty is claiming? The director and screenwriter state that they are boiling down ten years worth of hunting for UBL into a few hours. They shouldn't be taken to task for fictional license and they are right. But perhaps they shouldn't be criticized either for depicting black site interrogation as producing valuable testimony, because many of the foot soldiers in the CIA believe it did. And many still believe it shouldn't be abandoned as an effective means of learning the doings of this country's mortal enemy. Those who condemn enhanced interrogation techniques are seemingly okay with outright killing instead. How much information is obtained by blowing terrorists to pieces with drones? Rodriguez claims that valuable information is being lost in this way. Clearly drone strikes are a necessary weapon against dangerous and ruthless terrorists. But the work done at black sites was vital too. Zero Dark Thirty boldly represents this. It is a shame when the government asks well-intentioned and patriotic CIA officers and their foreign agents (such as the doctor who helped determine UBL was in Abbottabad, Pakistan and who is still imprisoned) to do difficult work, and then hangs them out to dry. There are some things we will never know in the hunt for terrorists bent on destroying this nation, and we shouldn't. But somethings are already out there. Zero Dark Thiry admits it is a work of fiction. Washington DC is perhaps engaging in something of the very sort too.