In a surprising endorsement, three top former CIA officials Tuesday praised the controversial anti-terror film "Zero Dark Thirty," claiming that it properly showed that brutal interrogation worked in the early war against al Qaeda, despite administration claims.
What's more, the three, including a former CIA director and his top spy, said that without so-called "enhanced interrogation," which President Obama killed in his third day in office, the nation's security is at risk.
"I fear for the safety of our national security because of that," said Jose Rodriguez, a 31-year CIA veteran who headed the National Clandestine Service from 2004-2008.
At an American Enterprise Institute forum to discuss the movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, former CIA Director Michael Hayden added that the administration has made capturing terrorists for interrogation such a "third rail" that it's better for soldiers and CIA operatives to kill their targets rather than face a "legally difficult and politically dangerous" climate.
The two, along with former top CIA lawyer John Rizzo, also lashed out at a secret, 6,000-page Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report that endorses the administration's view that the interrogation program, noted for its waterboarding of terrorists, did not produce any intelligence.
"It's a ridiculous assertion when a report says that enhanced interrogation program had no value or produced nothing. Frankly it's disturbing. Because in my view it is an attempt to rewrite history. The narrative of this administration is that the enhanced interrogation program was torture and nothing came out of it, but in fact we were able to destroy al Qaeda because of it," said Rodriguez, who added that the committee never interviewed any of the three ex-CIA officials about their program.
While they said the movie was not totally accurate, the three praised it for showing how long and difficult the hunt for bin Laden was and how intelligence gathering works. However, they said that the make-it-up-as-you-go interrogation style used in the movie didn't happen as shown. They also said that no Italian sports cars were given in return for information.
Reviewing the movie, Hayden said, "I liked it" and added, "I'm glad it was made."
Rodriguez said, "I also liked the movie."
And Rizzo called it a "terrific action flick."
In a revealing comment, Rodriguez recalled that in 2003, key detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed warned that interrogators would eventually be targeted by Washington for their methods. "You know," said Mohammed, " eventually your own government will come after you." Rodriguez said he just laughed at the time.
He and others have since been the targets of lawsuits and investigations and he said that being targeted by critics, combined with Obama's executive order killing the interrogation program, has had a "chilling effect" on top CIA officers in the field hunting down terrorists.