'The Report' Looks At Investigation Into CIA's Enhanced Interrogation Program
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
A nearly 7,000-page report on torture might not grab you as the most obvious fodder for a Hollywood thriller. Daniel J. Jones would be the first to admit this. He was the lead investigator for the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report on how the CIA detained and interrogated suspected terrorists, a report that's now been made into "The Report," a new movie starring Adam Driver as Daniel J. Jones. Jones sat down to talk about it with our co-host Mary Louise Kelly.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Daniel J. Jones is what you would call detail-oriented. When I asked, was it hard to watch this massive footnoted report he had written boiled down to a Hollywood screenplay, he offered this...
DANIEL J JONES: It is a two-hour film. The executive summary is 525 pages, and the full report's nearly 7,000. What haunts me more is actually what we weren't able to get into that classified 7,000-page report.
KELLY: That's right. He laments the report wasn't longer, more pages. An early scene in the movie takes us inside the room at CIA headquarters where Jones and his team would write some of those pages. This is Day 1. Jones's character is looking around for the first time, and he's got some questions for his CIA host.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE REPORT")
ADAM DRIVER: (As Daniel Jones) There's no printer, no paper.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) No documents are allowed to leave the room without CIA approval. Paper has a way of getting people in trouble at our place.
DRIVER: (As Daniel Jones) I think at some point we're going to need a printer and paper. At our place, paper's how we keep track of laws.
KELLY: Did you ever get a printer, by the way?
JONES: We did demand a printer and eventually get access to the ability to print pages, yes.
KELLY: So that was the CIA officer showing you what were going to be your digs. Paint us a picture of this room. Who was down there? How long were you down there?
JONES: It was a small room, no windows, in a basement, no Internet - right? - no phones. So you're just sort of locked away there with the paper and the ability to search these documents.
KELLY: You had computers - and this gets controversial in real life and in the movie - where you had access to CIA documents detailing what had happened with detainees post-Sept. 11.
JONES: We needed all of the documents related to the CIA's detention interrogation program. And that was a three-year process, eventually resulting in 6.3 million pages of records. But it didn't come all at once. It came in, you know, in different drops each week or every other week. We'd have these big document dumps.
KELLY: The work that you were doing was methodically investigating the treatment of - eventually it was 119 detainees, among them perhaps most prominently Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the so-called mastermind of Sept. 11. There's a scene where we hear Annette Bening, who's playing your boss, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, asking you about some of what you dug up.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE REPORT")
ANNETTE BENING: (As Senator Dianne Feinstein) Did they get anything actionable from him at all, anything that saved lives?
DRIVER: (As Daniel Jones) They waterboarded him 183 times and then concluded KSM may never be forthcoming or honest. Everything they got from him was either a lie or something they already had.
BENING: (As Senator Dianne Feinstein) Well, OK. So my first question is, if it works, why do you need to do it 183 times?
KELLY: Did you ever get an answer to that question? If something works, why do you have to do it 183 times?
JONES: Well, there was a mythology around the agency that this program was working. An entire legal framework is based upon it being effective. This program was only legal if it produced otherwise unavailable unique intelligence, and what that means is intelligence you can't acquire anywhere else. Therefore the CIA externally kept pushing out details about how this program was indispensible, but internally in the case of KSM and many other detainees, CIA officers had identified these techniques as grossly ineffective.
KELLY: The CIA then and now maintains, as you know, that these programs - the interrogation and detention program - produced valuable intelligence, that it helped lead to finding Osama bin Laden. Did you find any evidence to support that?
JONES: Well, let's take them separately. One is this idea now that the CIA claims that it produced, you know, useful intelligence. That's not the legal basis of the program. It's not - we want to torture people to get useful intelligence. It was - we want to torture people to get information we can't get anywhere else. So CIA has moved the goalpost on this - right? - that it's no longer necessary to obtain special information. Now it's, oh, of course this torture produced useful information.
KELLY: We'll stay with that point. Did you find anything to support that this program produced useful intelligence?
JONES: Well, listen. The detention program no doubt produced intelligence, right? When people are detained and you're talking to them, they will provide information. The first detainee, Abu Zubaydah, provided much more information prior to his torture than during or after.
KELLY: You were able to document that through your research.
JONES: Yeah. Essentially, we've done probably the largest study ever conducted in the world into torture. I mean, we had 6.3 million pages. I mean, it was very clear what happens when people are tortured. They provide any information they think their torturer wants to hear.
KELLY: You were going to take the second point as well.
JONES: Yes, the Osama bin Laden operation. I mean, this is one of those things that - mythology that's grown up around this program. The CIA had said over and over again that without the EIT program, we wouldn't have been able to complete the operation that led to bin Laden's death.
KELLY: EITs being enhanced interrogation techniques.
JONES: Right. Mike Casey, the former Department of Justice attorney general, wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that KSM broke like a dam after waterboarding and provided the information that led to bin Laden. All of this is just simply false. The detainee who provided the best information on the location of Osama bin Laden and his courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, was a detainee called Hassan Ghul.
Hassan Ghul provided this information while having tea. He was later transferred to another CIA detention site where they thought that when he arrived he appeared too comfortable. So they subjected him to enhanced interrogation techniques, and he did not provide any more information on UBL's location after that.
KELLY: Knowing everything you know now, would you do anything differently? Would you approach the investigation differently in any way?
JONES: There's a couple of things I wish I would have done. One is I wish we could have included in the executive summary the table of contents for the entire report, which is hundreds and hundreds of pages. So for every paragraph you see in the declassified report, there are hundreds of details supporting that paragraph.
KELLY: To this day, how many people have read, seen, had access to the classified version?
JONES: When the classified version was completed with the executive summary in December of 2014, Senator Feinstein sent copies of that classified report to all of the relevant intelligence agencies in the U.S. government, largely to learn the lessons of this program and ensure it never happened again. When Senator Burr took over the chairmanship, he called all of those reports back. So as far as I know, there are only three reports outside of the committee.
KELLY: Do you have one?
JONES: I definitely do not have one. The three reports outside of the committee - one is in President Obama's presidential library. And then I believe there are two reports under the custody of Department of Justice related to the ongoing trials in Guantanamo Bay.
KELLY: What I'm hearing from you sounds like there's still some unfinished business from where you sit.
JONES: Well, of course it was gratifying to get a portion of this released publicly in December of 2014. And we were front page of newspapers around the world for 24 to 48 hours. But given the news cycle and then it's gone, and what you really need is narrative and storytelling to penetrate culture. And I hope that this film is a piece of that.
KELLY: That is Daniel J. Jones. He led the Senate investigation into the CIA's use of torture after Sept. 11. He's played by Adam Driver in a new movie chronicling that investigation. It's called "The Report."
Thank you so much.
JONES: Thank you for having me.
KELLY: And a note - the CIA has acknowledged mistakes in how it handled detainees after Sept. 11. A statement on the agency website adds, quote, "CIA has owned up to these mistakes, learned from them and taken numerous corrective actions over the years." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.