America’s Darkest Secrets Are Laid Bare in ‘The Report’

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Director, Scott Z. Burns at KCRW. Photo by Christopher Ho.

While Americans will never be able to see the full Senate Intelligence Committee on CIA torture committed in the aftermath of September 11th, even the publicly available executive summary reveals shocking facts about the agency’s heinous acts. “The Report,” a new film by director Scott Z. Burns, whose work includes "the Bourne Ultimatum" and, more recently, “The Laundromat,” brings to life this dark chapter of recent American history with a star-studded movie featuring Annette Bening, Adam Driver and Jon Hamm. 

In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Burns speaks with Robert Scheer about his film and explains the inspiration behind the movie. 

“The way in for me was an article that I read in Vanity Fair about the two psychologists who are generally given credit as being the architects of the program,” the director tells Scheer. “They had this idea that they could come up with a program that used, you know, what they called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’---what I think most people on the planet would call torture---[that] they sold to the CIA after 9/11, and said that they had the special sauce that would make people talk. 

“My parents are both psychologists,” Burns goes on, “so I grew up around people who, you know, who practice. And the notion that psychologists would think that they should use their understanding of the human mind to hurt people was very confronting to me.” 

Scheer, who also recently interviewed the author of “A Place Outside the Law: Forgotten Voices from Guantanamo,” points out one of the most tragic facts about CIA torture. 

“I don't think you can justify torture, even if it produces valuable evidence,” Scheer states. “That's why it's banned internationally in other documents---But the fact is, they didn't produce any actionable information. And that makes it such an incredible scandal.”

Burns also shares an incredible story that he learned during his research but wasn’t able to include in “The Report” which puts the CIA’s actions into a powerful historical context. 

“The best interrogator the Nazis had was a guy named Hanns Scharff,” Burns tells Scheer. “And Scharff interviewed 500 airmen, and he basically used tea conversation, maybe a scotch; knowledge of, you know, American baseball. And he was successful in 480 out of 500 airmen who he interrogated … So the Nazis' best guy wouldn't use these techniques, and yet this is immediately where the CIA took us to.” 

There are only 3 full reports in existence, after several copies were destroyed, a fact that indicates the American public may never know the truth about what was carried out in their names. However, thanks to Burns’ film, which is in cinemas and will be available on Amazon, Scheer concludes that many may begin to become more aware of the issue. 

Listen to Burns and Scheer discuss what the latter calls a “riveting” film about one of the defining moments of our time.

Click here for last week's episode on Guantanamo Bay.




Joshua Scheer