“You do what you think is right and hope that God agrees with you.” Strong quote from an even stronger documentary. I should start off with a warning. Showtime’s Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs is not for the faint of heart. There are short clips of “torture”, 9/11, and footage of persons before their murder. It’s also a long documentary. Now if those things aren’t a deterrent for you let’s start the review.
The documentary follows 12 former directors of the CIA. They tackle issues from what did the Bush administration know before 9/11 to the Obama administration’s use of drones. Also mentioned is Clinton’s information concerning Osama bin Laden and the “Blue Sky Memo” which detailed what the CIA would do if resources and approval weren’t an issue.
One of the many highlights of the documentary was a section on the months leading up to 9/11. In July 2001, the CIA had amassed the credible information detailing serious plots. A meeting was called for by CIA Director George Tenet and others to debrief the president. Following that meeting Tenet was confident that they had finally gotten through to the president about the seriousness of the issue at hand. No action was taken on the information presented at meeting with top government officials on July 10, 2001. Condoleezza Rice would later write that her recollection was not very clear because they were discussing threats everyday. She thought, at that time, that they were doing enough.
Also discussed are enhanced interrogation techniques, the best ways to get information from terrorists, Obama’s strong stance against his predecessors tactics but what would he have done, and will history look at the use of drones the way we now look at waterboarding.
The later end of the film deals with the current administration’s preference of using drone strikes against suspected terrorists as opposed to capturing them to gain useful information and the shifting goals of the CIA. The focus has slowly become targeting as opposed to gathering information.
Watching this documentary is unnerving, I won’t lie. As stated in the film none of the issues discussed in the film are black and white. It would be easy to say that I would never condone the use of torture or waterboarding but when you listen to these former directors as well as the current director, it makes you think. The Bush administration and specifically the CIA were grilled on their handling of suspected terrorists waterboarding and “enhanced interrogation techniques” were criticized as torture and against American ideals.
So here’s tare some of the questions I’ve wrestled with since watching the doc. What would you have done if you were in their position? If 9/11 had just occurred and the president was demanding information and the common technique of “befriending the enemy” wasn’t an option due to time, what would you do? Will drone strikes become the Obama administration’s waterboarding?