On “The Report” and the history of the CIA onscreen

Joel Whitney in The Baffler:

IN LATE 2005, when the dread of finding Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq dwindled, California Senator Dianne Feinstein joined a chorus of non-mea culpa Democrats who claimed to be victims of Republican manipulation. But when a torture scandal arose two years later, the senator would not be so easily fooled again. Rather than accept the CIA’s bouquet of rationalizations for waterboarding, confinement, stress positions, sleep deprivation, and other so-called Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, or EITs, used on suspects rounded up in the War on Terror, Feinstein unleashed on the CIA a sober investigator, former FBI staffer Daniel J. Jones. A new feature film, The Report recounts Feinstein and Jones’s fight to uncover what really happened before President Obama ended the torture program with an executive order two days into his first term, a history that remains largely obscured.

Unlike Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-nominated film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, The Report is accurate and unambivalent on the fundamental question of whether torture worked: it did not. Nevertheless, the film’s urgency derives from its forceful recounting of how hard it proved—even for a veteran of the Senate (who headed the Select Committee on Intelligence)—to reveal a truthful answer to a simple question. If the torture yielded gains that saved lives, what were they?

More here.