By Kyle | December 22, 2012
It seems to me obvious that the CIA could very easily clear up the confusion on ‘Zero Dark Thirty” with a one-sentence statement: “Nobody we waterboarded gave us any information that helped us find Bin Laden.” That is what liberal bloggers are interpreting their latest statement to mean. And John McCain has basically said that. But people higher up on the chain of command in the intel business have not supported what McCain has been saying. I believe that in attempting to paraphrase what he has been told by the CIA, McCain has (along with ultra-liberals Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin) gotten it wrong.
Instead of the sentence I suggest above, the CIA, following up on a similar statement by Leon Panetta last year, issued a lengthy, carefully parsed press release on “Zero Dark Thirty” that does not say waterboarding is useless. In fact, the normal telescoping required for any feature film (if “ZD30” didn’t condense history, it would be 3000 hours long), seems to be the main fault that acting CIA director Mike Morell finds with the film.
Everything he says is pretty much consistent with the movie. “First,” says Morell, he wants us to know that hundreds of people, not just the Jessica Chastain “Maya” figure depicted in the movie, helped find Bin Laden. Who disputes that? But a movie can’t have hundreds of characters. 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.
Strong stuff. But not quite as direct as the sentence with which I opened this post…and the rest of the paragraph will undercut this sentence. I think the word “false” applies to the phrase “the key.” The CIA acknowledges that enhanced-interrogation is *A* key, just not *THE* key. Don’t believe me? Continue reading Morell’s statement.
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.
Okay, so there it is. Some key info came from waterboarded detainees. That’s what the film says. It doesn’t say the waterboarding led directly to Bin Laden. It doesn’t say there were no other pieces to the puzzle. It doesn’t even say the waterboarded guy gave up the “full true name” of Bin Laden’s courier (which Panetta hastened to point out last year). Nor does it say that the name and existence of the courier would not, eventually, have been discovered using non-coercive interrogation.
This CIA statement that purports to undermine “Zero Dark Thirty,” then, is actually consistent with it.