Who could turn down an opportunity to see a movie that the CIA may not have wanted to be made, and watch with them to do fact checking? The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) served up the event: “Watching ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ with the CIA: Separating fact from fiction”. I am there.
It is a myth that the CIA leadership didn’t want this movie. I think they love it primarily because it puts the CIA in action and in relatively good light. As former CIA Director General Hayden put it, “People are concerned about the CIA not doing enough. As soon as we are successful, we are accused of doing too much.”
CIA top leadership involved in tracking and killing Osama bin Laden chatted about the movie focusing on its plausibility and accuracy in portraying intelligence gathering from detainees, and analysis of data from what Hayden described as the “Costco of intelligence, with all sorts of information in there.”
“Kathryn Bigelow’s recent film “Zero Dark Thirty” has sparked controversy for its portrayal of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) enhanced interrogation program and the role intelligence from CIA detainees played in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Just how accurate is Bigelow’s depiction of enhanced interrogation techniques? Did intelligence from detainees really play a critical role in leading investigators to bin Laden’s doorstep in Abbotabad? Has President Obama's decision to curtail the interrogation program placed America’s national security at risk?
To separate fact from fiction, AEI’s Marc Thiessen (author of “Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack”) will host a panel discussion with three CIA veterans who were involved in the hunt for bin Laden.”
Look who are watching and talking:
9:45 AM Registration
10:00 AM Panelists:
General Michael Hayden (ret.), Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
John A. Rizzo, Former Chief Legal Officer at the Central Intelligence Agency
Jose Rodriguez, Former Director of the National Clandestine Service
Moderator: Marc A. Thiessen, AEI”
Before listening to former CIA Director, General Hayden directly, he had this commentary:
“Then there's this movie, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Some have complained that too many ‘secrets’ were dished out by the intelligence and special operations communities to director Kathryn Bigelow, screenwriter Mark Boal and their crew, part of a broader pattern of using intelligence for political effect.
There are now reports that one of the intelligence community's stars, Under Secretary of Defense Mike Vickers, may have leaned too far forward in talking to the film's creators. I doubt it. But I am glad that someone took the trouble to chronicle an American intelligence success.”
Then Hayden put the emphasis on the right spot, out of the spotlight of Hollywood.
“One hopes that in the new year our intelligence professionals--from seniors like Clapper, Morell and Vickers to the newest arriving analyst--can disentangle themselves from these public disputes and focus on their core responsibilities.
Responsibilities like gauging the spread of al Qaeda affiliates in North Africa, helping decision makers judge whether the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is a bridge or a barrier to Islamist fanaticism, identifying what part (if any) of the Syrian opposition can be trusted, or giving all of us confidence that we can detect an Iranian nuclear breakout before it is too late.”
Here is my take. The director, Kathryn Bigelow, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute and Columbia University, has been making exciting and successful movies for some time. Her success, in part, comes from researching materials and employing her creativity to depict entertaining treatment. Her work is fabulous.
A successful movie director depends upon great writing. For that, she had award winning Mark Boal. Mark has been all over this type of story genre. He is experienced in creating the environment that encases the bin Laden capture.
All they needed were some juicy details and angles that enhance movie drama and believability. For that they relied upon sources inside the government whose names are revealed by General Hayden. Those guys have to defend themselves and as the General said, the jury is out on the consequences of transparency.
The three professional intelligence people that I listened to this morning revealed much about themselves in their few choice and chosen words. They are the product of a system that produces specialists like them. Hayden is a management specialist with cross organizational and department experience. He has military bearing and a high degree of analytical personality; able to dissect and interpret details from a massively complex system that is constrained by exterior politics including international and foreign policy as well as the multilayers of bureaucratic politics.
John A. Rizzo, Former Chief Legal Officer at the Central Intelligence Agency is a lawyer and participated not just to watch words but to provide insight about decisions made to use waterboarding and other techniques.
In his own way, Jose Rodriguez, Former Director of the National Clandestine Service, displayed a degree of pride and emotion. He isn’t happy about intelligence leaks, but he is pleased that people in the agency are getting credit for the difficult task of knowing when to employ techniques to advance the “conversation” with detainees to gather information.
Asking thousands of questions of thousands of individuals over time, and you create a lot of information that must be sorted and filtered to determine consistency, discrepancy, and information that simply doesn’t fit or belong.
When you make a movie, the director and writer must create and develop characters and to tell a story in a concise manner from a context that is a plethora of details not unlike the tracking and catching Osama bin Laden.