September 9, 2015 archive

It’s not that they’re corrupt. It’s that they’re so cheap.

How the Makers of “Zero Dark Thirty” Seduced the CIA with Fake Earrings

Peter Maass, The Intercept

Sep. 9 2015, 2:56 p.m.

From the moment it premiered in 2012, the film by Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal about the hunt for Osama bin Laden has been criticized as pro-torture propaganda. According to its many detractors, the film embraced the discredited notion that torture by CIA interrogators made Al Qaeda members talk about the whereabouts of their leader. It subsequently was revealed that Bigelow and Boal had received an unusual amount of access to CIA officials who had a keen interest in peddling the virtues of waterboarding, and this spawned a cottage industry of investigations and articles.

According to the documents, at least 10 CIA officers met Bigelow and Boal at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, as well as at hotels and restaurants in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. In addition, the CIA director at the time, Leon Panetta, met Bigelow at a dinner in Washington and, soon after that, shared a table with her and Boal at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. It also turns out that Boal read his script over the phone to CIA public affairs officials on four separate days in the fall of 2011.

But the biggest takeaway from these documents is that even as the CIA turned Bigelow and Boal into its willing propagandists, the filmmakers were turning the CIA into star-gazing dupes; the seduction went both ways. Bigelow and Boal emerge in these documents as excellent co-opters of the nation’s toughest spies – and it didn’t take much for them to do that.

Bigelow and Boal visited CIA headquarters (an officer recalled having to cover up classified material on one occasion), but the meetings soon moved off campus to “avoid jealousy” about who was getting “face time” with the famous duo, according to the CIA documents obtained by Vice. For instance, one CIA officer met Boal at his suite in the luxury Jefferson Hotel in Washington D.C. and dined with him at the hotel as well as at a nearby restaurant, Citronelle, where a slab of ribeye cost $39. Not long afterwards, Bigelow met that same officer in her accommodations at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown.

The seduction was bi-coastal. A CIA officer met Boal in Hollywood for a meal and then drove to a beach house in Malibu to talk with Bigelow. Boal gave the officer a bottle of Tequila and boasted it was worth “several hundred dollars” (although when someone at the CIA checked, the highest listed price was $169.99). The officer who had met Boal at the Jefferson Hotel also had dinner with him and Bigelow at the members-only Soho House in L.A. and later told investigators she had “developed a friendship” with the filmmakers. It had not been terribly expensive for Bigelow and Boal to develop these friendships, however – Bigelow had given the officer a set of what the director described as “black Tahitian pearl earrings” that, it turned out, were painted black and were so cheap they weren’t worth the cost of an appraisal.

The documents show that auditors at the CIA referred the matter to the Department of Justice for possible criminal action against Boal and Bigelow for bribing public officials. Prosecutors took no action.


The Breakfast Club (Wandering Star)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Inmates seize control of Attica prison in upstate New York; Mao Zedong, Communist China’s founding leader, dies; Elvis Presley first appears on TV’s Ed Sullivan Show; Soul singer Otis Redding born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.

Mark Twain

On This Day In History September 9

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 9 is the 252nd day of the year (253rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 113 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, Congress renames the nation “United States of America”.

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress formally declares the name of the new nation to be the “United States” of America. This replaced the term “United Colonies,” which had been in general use.

In the Congressional declaration dated September 9, 1776, the delegates wrote, “That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the stile be altered for the future to the “United States.”

The Lee Resolution, also known as the resolution of independence, was an act of the Second Continental Congress declaring the United Colonies to be independent of the British Empire. First proposed on June 7, 1776, by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, after receiving instructions from the Virginia Convention and its President, Edmund Pendleton  (in fact Lee used, almost verbatim, the language from the instructions in his resolution). Voting on the resolution was delayed for several weeks while support for independence was consolidated. On June 11, a Committee of Five  was appointed to prepare a document to explain the reasons for independence. The resolution was finally approved on July 2, 1776, and news of its adoption was published that evening in the Pennsylvania Evening Post and the next day in the Pennsylvania Gazette. The text of the document formally announcing this action, the United States Declaration of Independence, was approved on July 4.

The Daily Late Nightly Show (Debut)

I’m going to try and not put too many expectations on Stephen.  He’s just an entertainer after all and it’s not his job to save the Republic, though we could use some saving.

I don’t even think he’ll come out like Daaavid Letterman.  Dave had something to prove, that he was much, much better than Jay Leno, and I think he did that.

When Dave rolled out on stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater he had a fully developed show with a format, a staff, and an audience.  He was the righful heir of Johnny Carson with a New York Rolodex full of edgy talent on the make instead of the fake tanned celebrity of Burbank (is that even really a place or just a CGI wax museum?).

I followed every moment of the build up and was never unhappy with the result.  Leno’s only virtue is that he’s compliant for which the evidence is his dismal prime time expansion and the failed Conan hand off.

Jimmy Fallon is his proper heir, a vacuous vacant airhead with half the attention span of a tweet (I call them twits and they are incapable of expressing any thought that can not be formulated in 70 characters or less simply because it exceeds their reasoning ability).

Stephen asked Dave if he would have changed anything.  Dave said- “I’d have put my desk on the other side.”  You can expect to see Stephen on the left even though he says he wants Republicans to feel included in his audience.

Thus Jeb!

What even his detractors will admit is that Stephen is a pretty fair interviewer so you can expect that aspect of his talent to be featured.  Tonight in addition to Jeb! he has George! (not quite sure why except Clooney makes a habit of debuts and farewells).  His house band is Jonathan Batiste and Stay Human.

I think that the transition to Larry Wilmore’s Nightly Show has helped to psychologically prepare me.  Even about 5 months in it’s still striving to find its balance though it is much, much better than it was.  Likewise I think Trevor and Stephen get a suspension of disbelief for a time.  Material doesn’t necessarily translate.

Speaking of the new continuity-

Learn Something!


Tonightly our panelists are Mike Yard, Kerry Coddett, and Matteo Lane.