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Robert Scheer
Truthdig / Truthdig Op-Ed
Published: Saturday 19 January 2013
In short, all of us, the great U.S. citizenry, have been denied open access to the facts essential to understanding the great national trauma justifying a war on terror that has done more damage to U.S. standards of freedom than any foreign enemy.

Another Word for Propaganda

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Why aren’t film director Kathryn Bigelow’s claimed government sources, including employees of the CIA, in jail like Pfc. Bradley Manning? Or, at the very least, being investigated for their role in one of the most damaging leaks of national security information in U.S. history?

How did the Japanese-owned Sony Corporation that released Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” gain access to information on the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden, so highly classified that it was denied to the official 9/11 Commission that investigated the terrorist attacks? The opening frame of the movie states the crime, clearly claiming that “Zero” is “based on firsthand accounts of actual events.” 

Those “actual events,” constituting the tenacious search for the country’s most- wanted terrorist, are matters of such carefully guarded secrecy that even the 10 members of the 9/11 Commission, all possessing the highest level of access, were forbidden to interview anyone with “firsthand” knowledge. The commission, which was created by President George W. Bush and Congress in 2002 and in 2004 released the only official public U.S. government examination of 9/11, was explicitly banned from any contact with the “key witnesses.”

That 585-page report concedes in a boxed disclaimer on page 146 that the commissioners were denied the access that Bigelow claims to have had to the torturers and the tortured in developing the narrative outlined in two key chapters of the report:

Chapters 5 and 7 rely heavily on information obtained from captured al Qaeda members. A number of these ‘detainees’ have firsthand knowledge of the 9/11 plot.

Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses—sworn enemies of the United States—is challenging. Our access to them has been limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications received from the locations where the actual interrogations take place. We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no control over whether, when, or how questions of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could better judge the credibility of the detainees and clarify ambiguities in the reporting. We were told that our requests might disrupt the sensitive interrogation process.

That “sensitive interrogation process” is now on full display for all the world to see in this movie’s opening celebration of the American style of sadism. The purpose is a dehumanizing one, in which the tortured have no claim to a presumption of innocence. Nor is there any interest, as there was in the exemplary “Taxi to the Dark Side”—the 2007 Academy Award documentary winner—in the complex socio-political factors that have led the tortured to be in this position.

Even the 9/11 Commission report, which failed in its forced reliance on firsthand facts of secondhand accounts, acknowledges that some of these villains fought on the same side as the United States against the Soviets, benefited from Western education, and are responding to a myriad of religious and nationalist causes that are worthy of examination. Of course, a public trial for the accused would be the best way to educate ourselves as to why a terrorist band drawn almost entirely from, and financed by, a long-trusted U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia, would engage in such nefarious anti–American deeds. 

But that is not about to happen, and instead, we are at the mercy of selective government leaks. In the case of “Zero Dark Thirty,” leading members of the Senate, experts on intelligence matters, and officials in the executive branch have condemned the film for getting it wrong, not sadly for the use of torture but rather its efficacy in the hunt for bin Laden. So it is the word of Bigelow’s sources against theirs, and the rest of us sourceless folks are at the mercy of the volume of their respective megaphones. 

In short, all of us, the great U.S. citizenry, have been denied open access to the facts essential to understanding the great national trauma justifying a war on terror that has done more damage to U.S. standards of freedom than any foreign enemy.

The few brave whistle-blowers in our government who have attempted to warn us of this dangerous course, like Manning, who is accused of exposing the killing of innocent Iraqi civilians, have endured harsh punishment and been threatened with even greater penalties. Not so the eyewitnesses on whom Bigelow relied for her film’s knee-jerk acceptance of a U.S. torture policy. 

For this sorry state of affairs, I do not primarily blame Bigelow, who has no expertise in investigative journalism and clearly will go with whatever account seems most riveting cinematically. “What we are attempting,” she has said in defense of her work, “is almost a journalistic approach to film.” 

“Almost journalism” is a polite way of justifying propaganda.

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ABOUT Robert Scheer
Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. His columns appear in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He conducted the famous Playboy magazine interview in which Jimmy Carter confessed to the lust in his heart and he went on to do many interviews for the Los Angeles Times with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and many other prominent political and cultural figures.

-SATURN66 - '' I do not

-SATURN66 - '' I do not sanction torture under ANY circumstances and the very idea of doing purposeful harm to other human beings should be anathema to who we are.''

i was in guatemala, 1976-79, i.e. as one phase of its 36 yr terror war built up, and can tell you that we sanctioned torture in that nation [and others] has a longer history.
there it could and did result from mere suspicion of 'communism' and played a part in the loss of moreless 200,000.

read the wiki account of 'dos erres' for a rough idea [though that was not organized torture as practiced by, e.g., death squads, national police, judicial police, et cetera.

and yes, i was on the right side [and marginally amazed to still be alive].

Take Care

Good article. I do believe

Good article. I do believe the Zero Dark Thirty movie is propaganda by the neocons who think they are making America look stronger to the world. I do not approve of torture in any respects and think that it does America's image no good! I doubt that I will see the movie as I don't appreciate torture movies or the implications that this film features. For instance, the movie specifically implies that Osama Bin Laden would not have been captured unless the Bush Admin. has started torture. I do not believe this to be the truth.

The universal response to

The universal response to 9/11 of USA media - whether left, right or center - AND government - demonstrates that as yet we don't really live in a scientific age.

What was absolutely never questioned, let alone discussed, by even the
'independent' media and 'independent intellectuals' in this country were three basic obvious implications of what tens of millions of Americans ACTUALLY AND DIRECTLY SAW on TV during 9/11. What we saw on TV gave us little evidence one way or another of what sort of terror organization might have accounted for hijacking of the planes, but it DIRECTLY showed us the following:

(1) The USA evidently had spent hundreds of billions of dollars over several decades on 'air defense', yet apparently had NO doctrine in place as to what to do when an obviously unauthorized aircraft flies over the biggest city.

(2) The prime icons of alleged USA supremacy and quality in construction and engineering, the proud towers of WTC, readily burst into flame and collapsed.

(3) In these towers 3000 workers labored primarily in info-management and communication tasks which could readily in the Internet age have been decentralized, thereby reducing vulnerability, enhancing security, and cutting energy and commutation costs. But instead, despite alleged capitalistic quests for efficiency, corporate vanity decreed that these workers instead had to be stuffed into proud vulnerable energy-guzzling towers.

What other crime scene (and

What other crime scene (and this was the crime of a century) has ever been completely cleaned up before the investigators were allowed to look at it?

What could be wrong with a more thorough and complete objective investigation of all evidence, including eyewitnesses and black boxes?

But nowadays it is wrong to even bring this subject up.


its all there in 11/22

its all there in 11/22

I have long been disturbed

I have long been disturbed about the acts that are committed by my country IN MY NAME and with my tax dollars. I do not sanction torture under ANY circumstances and the very idea of doing purposeful harm to other human beings should be anathema to who we are.

It's become clear in this age of easier information that there exists a layer to our government that almost none of us would sanction if we knew the truth. But the truth will never come out, because it does not serve anyone's agenda. We are managed, manipulated, and lied to at every turn. Maybe this has always gone on, but now that we know about it, it's mighty disturbing, as it should be.

Scheer makes good points in

Scheer makes good points in this piece. While I have not and probably will not view this film, it sounds like the usual collaboration of the military security sector with the "make believe" set of society. A "recruitment movie" if you will, where the two sectors work hand in hand. If you could follow the money trail one branch would lead you to the Pentagon and the Intelligence agencies and their push to have this film made.

While Scheer is shouting "unfair" from atop his hobby horse about insider access by Bigelow, the movie seems not to contain anything the average citizen couldn't make a close guess at. The real question is the whole story surrounding 9/11. The who, what ,when, and why questions were never fully addressed by the commission. Bin Laden never took credit . Three months after, he was reportedly convalescing in an American hospital in Dubai. Other reports have Bin Laden dying from organ failure late in 2002. No independent verifiable evidence has ever been given or garnered that the assassination of Bin Laden happened as purported. The citizenry again have to take the official agency account and their editions of books and movies as gospel, and we all know the make up of gospels. After 9/11 the truth is buried so deep by disinformation, lies or manufactured false theories as blanket guffaw at any other than "their" truth, that the truth could be lying right out in the open and we would step over it. This is the out come of deep events, subterfuge and deception whether intended or not. The only way I've found to try and discern where the truth lays is by closely watching the reactions of the powerful to reporting. It all seems like a descent into a hall of mirrors with the powerful controlling the imagery while the rest of us point fingers in every direction.

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