We already knew that the CIA gave unusual access to the creative team behind the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.” Now we know at least some of what the agency got in return. A memo obtained earlier this week by Gawker shows that the screenwriter, Mark Boal, altered two scenes at the CIA’s request.
In the end, though, this revelation doesn’t tell us much, if anything, about the film’s accuracy, or lack thereof. “Zero Dark Thirty” is and always was fiction, a product of its creators’ artistic and political choices. One of their choices was to depict torture as effective, disturbing but necessary, and something that American heroes do.
As a former interrogator, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that all of us — including those at the CIA — are interested in gaining actionable intelligence to disrupt terrorist plots. But as someone who interrogated members of al Qaeda, I know that torture is ineffective, disturbing and unnecessary.
Detainees subjected to “enhanced interrogation” will become compliant, but not cooperative. Pain induces humans to say whatever they think will make the pain go away. How many countless hours went into chasing ghosts because of the “enhanced interrogation” program?
If you’re interested in the truth about torture and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, you shouldn’t look to Hollywood; you should call on President Obama to work with the Senate Intelligence Committee to release the committee’s landmark 6,000-page report on the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program.
It hasn’t gotten as much coverage as “Zero Dark Thirty,” but the committee’s report is the most authoritative record of the so-called “enhanced interrogation” program — one of the most significant inquiries in Senate history, according to Committee Chairwoman Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFederal watchdog calls on Congress, Energy Dept. to overhaul nuclear waste storage process Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Republicans caught in California's recall trap MORE (D-Calif.).
But Americans may never see it. The Senate Intelligence Committee will vote on whether to declassify it, but it’s unlikely that it would vote to do so over the objection of the CIA, whose cooperation is essential. Some within the CIA are attempting to block its release or, failing that, to alter its findings.
While oversight can sometimes be uncomfortable, our interrogation policies — and the CIA as an institution — will be better off in the long run if we have the facts. Feinstein and her colleague Sen. Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinOvernight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden pays tribute to late Sen. Levin: 'Embodied the best of who we are' Former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm dead at 85 MORE (D-Mich.) have consulted the report to debunk the claim that torture helped the hunt for bin Laden. Feinstein has said the report shows conclusively that torture was “more systematic and widespread than we thought.”
Embarrassment to the CIA is not a legitimate reason to conceal the report. The president has the authority to order the CIA to stand down and allow declassification to move forward. Americans have seen the movie — now we deserve to see the truth about what our government did in our name.
Cloonan spent 25 years at the FBI, where he was a special agent for the FBI’s Osama bin Laden unit from 1996 to 2002.