Saturday December 22, 2012
Wait, What Exactly is Acting CIA Director MIchael Morell Saying About 'Zero Dark Thirty'?
Michael Morell, the acting director of the CIA, took the odd step of sending an internal memo to his agents externally, via the CIA's website, to talk about the inaccuracies in Kathryn Bigelow's film “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Some of the stuff he talks about is of the “Who gives a shit?” variety. Hundreds of agents are reduced to a dozen? That's always done. That's dramatic license. Because hundreds aren't a story; one is.
But Morell's key point is his second point:
Second, 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.
Except he's not making much of a point, is he? He says it's false that enhanced interrogation techniques were part of the program that led to Bin Ladin. Then he says, “Some [of that intelligence] came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques, but there were many other sources as well.”
Wait, what? I'd heard no info that led to OBL came from tortured detainees.
I mean, how is Morell not contradicting himself in this graf? Is he saying that the intel gathered through enhanced interrogation came from a source other than the CIA? Because if that's the case, that, for me, falls within the realm of dramatic license, and “Zero Dark Thirty” is off the hook.
Again, the issue for me with this film is the misrepresentation of the efficacy of torture. Period. But if that efficacy is not misrepresented, if in fact some of our OBL intelligence came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques, and if ZDT doesn't overplay its hand in this regard, then I'm interested again.
Morell, in attempting to edify, actually muddies the waters. Makes me think of a fictional CIA director from a 1970s movie: “You miss that kind of action, sir?” “I miss that kind of clarity.”