The True Story Behind the Film The Report


“Find out exactly what they have and read every word of it.” So says California Senator Dianne Feinstein, performed by Annette Bening, to staffer Daniel J. Jones in Amazon’s upcoming political drama The Report. Sen. Feinstein units Jones, performed by Adam Driver, on an investigation of the Central Intelligence Company’s detention and “enhanced interrogation” — or torture — of suspected terrorists in the course of the administration of President George W. Bush, in the end a seven-year challenge that might practically take over his life.

Written and directed by filmmaker Scott Z. Burns, The Report chronicles Jones’ real investigation on behalf of the Senate Intelligence Committee into the Bush-era CIA in addition to the Senate’s subsequent wrestle with the Obama administration to release what Jones uncovered.

Working for Sen. Feinstein, then the Chair of the Committee, Jones and his staff reviewed round 6.three million pages of inner CIA paperwork and wrote a roughly 6,700-page report on their findings — also known as the “torture report” — which stays categorized to at the present time.

In 2014, the Senate voted to release a greater than 500-page executive summary, which served as a foundation for the movie’s script. Some dialogue is even pulled from the abstract itself.

The movie lays out in graphic element what Jones found: that the U.S. authorities’s detention and interrogation program was inefficient, needlessly brutal and deliberately hidden from policymakers and the American folks.

The Report additionally depicts how President Barack Obama’s administration — particularly John O. Brennan’s CIA — labored to undermine the Committee’s efforts to make their findings public. Jon Hamm performs President Obama’s Chief of Employees Denis McDonough, who the movie suggests repeatedly sided with the CIA after the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden improved the President’s probabilities for reelection.

Burns tells TIME he consulted the work of investigative journalists like Jane Mayer and James Risen, the autobiographies of CIA officers, interviews with navy and legislation enforcement consultants on interrogation, and interviews with the senators on the Intelligence Committee. However the main supply for the movie was the declassified govt abstract itself.

“I made a choice not to say at the beginning of this movie, ‘Based on a true story’. What I chose to say is that, ‘This movie is based on this report,’” Burns explains. “Before we can identify [whether] a story is true or not, we have to identify what the facts of the story are.”

Burns stresses that the report is about details. “This is the CIA’s own accounting of their program, and it’s an amazing puzzle that Dan [Jones] was able to put together out of 6.2 million documents. And so one would think if there was a narrative that said this program worked, it would’ve been found somewhere in those 6.2 million documents.”

Right here’s a quick overview of the true occasions behind The Report.

What did the “Torture Report” discover?

Jones and his staff discovered that between 2002 and 2008, at the least 119 detainees had been held by the CIA in covert areas world wide, referred to as “black sites.” The CIA admitted at the least 26 of the detainees had been “wrongfully” held.

In accordance with the Committee’s govt abstract, “interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.”

Thirty-nine of the detainees had been tortured. The strategies included “walling” (slamming an individual towards a wall), slaps, nudity, stress positions and sleep deprivation. Some had been made to remain awake for so long as every week, and others had been instructed their households had been in peril or they had been going to be killed. No less than 5 detainees had been subjected to pointless “rectal rehydration,” and at the least three had been waterboarded, which simulates the expertise of drowning. The report discovered the interrogations triggered “psychological and behavioral issues, including hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm.”

No less than one detainee — Gul Rahman — died, probably due to hypothermia.

Crucially, Jones’ staff additionally discovered that the interrogations weren’t efficient. Seven detainees offered no intelligence in any respect, and plenty of detainees made up data, creating defective intelligence. “Other detainees provided significant accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been subjected to these techniques,” the abstract continues. Moreover, Jones’ staff discovered that the CIA exaggerated the effectiveness of this system and misled the White Home, Congress and the American public.

The executive summary concludes that this system was mismanaged. What’s extra, it was developed by two psychologists — James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jenssen, performed by Douglas Hodge and T. Ryder Smith within the movie — who had no expertise as interrogators and lacked specialised information of each al-Qaeda and counterterrorism.

Burns says he was first drawn to this subject after studying Katherine Eban’s 2007 Self-importance Truthful article “Rorschach and Awe”, which examines how Mitchell and Jessen developed the interrogation program. Burns’ dad and mom are each psychologists, and he says he was excited by “the idea that a field of science that had largely existed to explain human behavior and heal people could somehow be used by this.”

The Report options extended scenes of Mitchell and Jessen’s interrogations of suspected terrorists, and contains some composite characters, equivalent to Maura Tierney’s CIA official, as a result of names within the govt abstract had been redacted.

How did the Torture Report come collectively?

The tapes investigation (2007-2009)

The investigation into the CIA’s interrogation program started in 2007, when the New York Times reported that the CIA had destroyed tapes of interrogations in 2005. Two years earlier than Feinstein turned Jones’ boss, West Virginia Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller was the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he requested Jones to evaluate the CIA paperwork to find out what was on the tapes.

Earlier than working for Sen. Rockefeller, Jones had been an FBI analyst within the Worldwide Terrorism Operations Part. He and former CIA lawyer Alissa Starzak — who doesn’t seem by identify within the movie — dove into the CIA’s data for 2 years and delivered a report back to the Committee in 2009 on their findings.

“Basically the members [of the Committee] found out that they had been lied to by the CIA,” the true Daniel Jones tells TIME. “That the techniques were far more brutal than they had ever described. That the whole claims of effectiveness related to the [origins of the program] were simply not true. And that there were all these other management failures.”

The bigger investigation into the CIA interrogation and detention program (2009-2012)

In March 2009, in response to Jones’ report, the Committee voted 14-to-1 to launch a bigger investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. Sen. Feinstein had turn into the Chairman of the Committee at this level, and requested Jones to remain on to move up the investigation. He was initially instructed it will take a couple of yr to finish.

Across the identical time, Legal professional Normal Eric Holder introduced he was broadening a felony investigation into the CIA, and because of this, the CIA stated that nobody throughout the company was allowed to talk to Jones’ staff. The Republican minority on the committee then pulled their assist for the investigation, arguing it couldn’t get far with out interviews. Jones and his staff of 4 core members moved forward, poring over tens of millions of company paperwork in a windowless basement room.

Through the years, Jones and his staff wrote 1000’s of pages about what they discovered. Jones recollects having to beg different workers members to learn the report, asking for his or her assistance on readability and checking for typos. “We don’t have editors. It’s just us,” he explains.

They completed that 6,700 web page doc in 2012.

“The summer from hell” (2013)

Sen. Feinstein despatched the report for remark and evaluate by the CIA, different intelligence businesses and the White Home. In June 2013, the Committee heard again that the CIA had main issues with the report and claimed it contained inaccuracies. Over the summer time, Jones and his staff started assembly with the CIA to work by these sections.

Jones describes the interval because the “summer of hell.” “We knew what the facts were and we would basically say, you know, ‘The ocean water is blue. Here it is.’ And they would say, ‘No, we think it’s yellow.’ And I’d be like, ‘But here’s the picture, right? It’s blue,’” he explains.

Jones turned so pissed off that Feinstein instructed him to cease assembly with the CIA. Jones remembers Feinstein instructing him to incorporate the CIA’s objections within the footnotes of the abstract, “ensuring the world knew the ridiculousness of their response,” he tells TIME.

The CIA recordsdata a felony referral towards Daniel Jones and his staff (2014)

In early winter, the CIA accused the Senate of illegally accessing an interval evaluate of its detention and interrogation program, referred to as the “Panetta Review,” and eradicating it from CIA amenities with out authorization. The CIA’s personal inspector basic then opened a felony referral after senators accused the CIA of improperly monitoring Jones’ staff, per the Times.

In February, the CIA then filed a second criminal referral towards Jones and his staff, arguing that they hacked into the CIA and took the Panetta Evaluation with out permission.

In March, Sen. Feinstein gave a biting 45-minute speech on the Senate flooring condemning the CIA’s actions. She confirmed that a part of the Evaluation had been copied and moved to the Senate’s workplace, as a result of the CIA had destroyed the interrogation tapes and the Evaluation had since disappeared off the Committee’s pc system.

Feinstein accused the CIA of conducting an unauthorized search of her staffer’s pc community, saying she was involved the CIA might have violated the Structure’s separation of powers precept. She requested an apology, and added that she seen the felony referral towards Jones’ workers “a potential effort to intimidate.”

John Brennan strongly denied Feinstein’s accusations, saying, “nothing could be further from the truth,” per the Times.

However in July, the CIA’s inspector general found that the company really had “penetrated” the Senate Intelligence Committee’s pc community, and filed the felony referral towards Jones and his staff was based mostly on false data. The identical day, Brennan apologized.

The Panetta Evaluation got here to the identical conclusions as Jones’ investigation, however differed from the CIA’s official response. Jones tells TIME he thinks it ought to by no means have been withheld from the Committee. Jones says the Evaluation appeared on his pc someday, both by a pc glitch or a whistleblower. He says a variety of paperwork slipped into the tens of millions they got entry to, some having nothing to do with interrogation. It might need simply by accident come by.

The manager abstract comes out (Winter 2014)

The Division of Justice dismissed the costs towards Jones’ staff. The manager abstract then moved to the White Home to find out what must be declassified. It got here again closely redacted, and the senators pushed to incorporate extra particulars and names within the model launched to the general public.

Lastly, after a protracted back-and-forth with the Obama administration, the Senate launched the manager abstract on Dec. 9, 2014, shortly earlier than Democrats misplaced management of the Senate.

“The Senators who are involved are the ones who make things happen,” Jones says. “I was just a staffer. It really takes Senators being courageous.”

In a 2014 op-ed in the Washington Post, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., the previous director of the CIA’s Nationwide Clandestine Service whose identify seems all through the report, responded to the Committee’s findings with reducing phrases. “The report’s leaked conclusion, which has been reported on widely, that the interrogation program introduced no intelligence worth is an egregious falsehood; it’s a dishonest try to rewrite historical past. I’m bemused that the Senate might commit so many assets to finding out the interrogation program and but by no means as soon as converse to any of the important thing folks concerned in it, together with the man who ran it (that might be me).”

Burns says that these conflicting narratives, between the CIA’s account of what occurred and Jones’ discoveries, inform the battle of the movie. He’s within the query, “How do these two narratives battle it out in the real world and which one ends up getting purchased in the culture as the truth?”

What occurred after the occasions depicted in The Report?

The movie ends in 2014, after the Senate releases Jones’ findings. However the points it explores persist within the current day.

In 2015, the Senate passed the McCain-Feinstein Anti-Torture Modification, which banned any additional use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on detainees.

Within the spring of 2018, Gina Haspel — who, per the Times, oversaw the torture of a terrorism suspect in Thailand and was concerned within the 2005 destructions of the interrogation tapes — was confirmed because the Director of the CIA

Throughout her listening to earlier than the Senate Haspel pledged to not restart the interrogation program.

Write to Madeleine Carlisle at


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