When a new acquaintance learns I once worked at the CIA, I am frequently asked to comment on whether shows like Homeland, tell the “reality” of the CIA. The short answer, “no.” As I have written previously, the image the general public holds of the CIA as the lair of James Bond is laughable. The better icon of popular culture that captures the essence of the CIA is DILBERT.

I am not impugning my former colleagues. They are many patriots who make many personal sacrifices in order to help protect this nation. But the CIA also is a large bureaucracy and, as is the tendency of large bureaucracies, tends to reward incompetence and punish those who take initiative. The debacle in Bengahzi last September 11 is but one recent example. We can go back and recount the double agent who blew himself up in Afghanistan because the woman who was the Chief of Base was not qualified by training or experience to handle that post.

So, here comes the Killing Bin Laden movie from Kathryn Bigelow. It has big buzz and critics are already in the ecstasy of mental ejaculation over the wonder of the piece.

The Financial Times offers up this gush:

Zero Dark Thirty tells the story of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden. Taut, gripping and brilliantly executed, it makes Homeland – and most other depictions of the CIA – look like daytime soap operas. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, the team that made the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, it centres on the lone, female CIA analyst who first identified the courier who would lead the agency to bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The importance of the woman’s role in locating the leader of al-Qaeda is revealed for the first time in the film, which weaves investigative material unearthed by Mr Boal – a journalist, as well as a screenwriter – with heart-pounding re-creations of terrorist attacks.

There were suspicions before last month’s presidential election that the White House had been complicit in the release of classified material to Mr Boal, and that the film would play up President Barack Obama’s role in the mission. Judicial Watch, a group that says it is a “conservative non-partisan educational foundation” obtained emails between CIA officials and the film-makers, claiming the Obama administration played “fast and loose with national security information” to help Mr Boal and Ms Bigelow. The original October release date stoked suspicions that it would further the president’s re-election chances.

As it turns out, this theory was wrong, and not just because the US release was pushed back to December 19. The president merits barely a mention in the film, which makes the CIA agents and their pursuit of bin Laden its unrelenting focus. More credit is implicitly given to waterboarding, the so-called “enhanced interrogation” technique that many human-rights activists say should be classified as torture.

Only one little problem. It is not true. It is a great cover story and, I suppose, we may be better off believing a lie rather than exposing the truth. But, a big part of the lie is that water boarding worked and provided the key break thru. That is total bullshit, but the film makers shrewdly seized on this meme and guaranteed they will insulate themselves from any criticism from Republican true believers who support drowning folks in a means-justifies-the-end philosophy that passes for moral leadership these days.

What is sad is that the real story of how we learned about Bin Laden’s whereabouts will not be told. Part of that reason is to protect the identity of the person who walked into the the US Embassy in Pakistan and gave up the family jewels. Nah, we like the better story of the heroic woman. I won’t be seeing this piece of fantasy.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.
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  • http://twitter.com/souls_code Soul’s Code

    Larry, thank you for your astute reading — won’t read that analysis in the New York Times. Guaranteed :)

    I had the same thought — and wanted to ground it by checking No Quarter.

    Thank you for staying so consistent on this issue through Cheney, and now the Obama admin (and your once-favorite, Biden).

    I think the first principle of Hollywood is flexibility — and Bigelow is a true artist and the best of that breed. Most screenplays are downhill from there :)

  • Heather Stein

    Finally a post where Larry Johnson is not blaming Obama for something.

    The movie is not a documentary and is a Hollywood movie designed to sell tickets. No different than any other Hollywood movie made with the CIA in it. No big deal. You are all “conservative” capitalists, so you are for making money.



    swiss spy agency warns US and Brition huge data compromised

    how bad is this?????



    this does not look good.
    US – UN internet treaty

  • shelldoll2

    I personally killed Bin laden, Really. Trust me. Your friend the Government.




    ignoring the law seems to run in backtrack’s family

  • akaPatience

    As a former public employee I can relate to Larry’s Dilbert analogy. And in spite of today’s budget pressures I have no doubt there’s still a lot of dead weight among the ranks.

    Sorry if anyone disagrees but I wasn’t wild about “Hurt Locker” and can’t believe it won Best Picture over “Avatar”. Then again, I CAN believe it since so many awards are socio-politically motivated, and giving an Oscar to Bigelow over her ex-husband James Cameron was obviously too hard to resist for a lot of Academy voters. SO, I won’t be risking bed bug infestation by going to a public theater to see her new film.

  • Heather Stein

    Finally a post where Larry Johnson is not blaming Obama for something.

    The movie is not a documentary and is a Hollywood movie designed to sell tickets. No different than any other Hollywood movie made with the CIA in it. No big deal. You are all “conservative” capitalists, so you are for making money.

  • TeakWoodKite

    Did you know that Homeland is Barry’s favorite show?


    Los Angeles, California, mayor announces that Port of LA strike is resolved; both parties agree to federal mediation – @KPCC


    looks like all hell is breaking loose in Egypt

    police use teargas on anti morsi protesters

    protesters breaking through barriers



    hypocrite michael moore received $841,145 in government handouts to film anti-corporate welfare documentary

  • Hokma

    The only reason to spend $15 – $20 for a movie theatre ticket is for a spetacular movie production that is worth seeing in a big theatre. For any other kind of movie it is a waste of money for a ticket, the exhorbitant cost of drink/snack, a smelly/dirty theatre, and in seats that are like bean bag chairs.

    This ain’t one of those movies worth paying any more for than $5 for a DVD from a local entrepreneur. Even then, I doubt I will bother for fear that somehow, someway part of that $5 will find its way into David Axelrod’s pocket.



    NATO warns Syria about chemical weapons

    • TeakWoodKite

      What is really very ironic about NATO warning Syria not to use chemical weapons is that in a few months from now, after Assad is gone from power, NATO will be warning Akmed the Jihadist, who ripped a bunch of them off from Syrian stockpiles, not to use them against NATO targets.

      I saw on the news a toid from DOD saying it would take 75,000 troops to secure these weapons. What do you think the odds are that a number of these weapons will “fall into the wrong hands”?
      Way to go Barry.



    due to midwest drought there is a rise in thefts of hay

    • KenoshaMarge

      That’s a joke right? Obama? Leadership?



    do not think the dems will let Hillary run in 2016. it looks like an underground movement is starting to keep it from happening. keep watching for books like this and news stories to undermine her.

    • getfitnow

      I could care less. She will not get my vote. Period.

      • KenoshaMarge

        Mine either. Just waiting, none too patiently, for the time when she as her asshole husband finally STFU!

    • HELENK2

      looks like the beginning of meme of michelle obama to run in 2016. samuel l jackson and clyburn stoking the idea

      • HELENK2

        I would not vote for either of these women.

        Someday I would love to have a woman for president,but that woman would have to want the best for this country and have the ability to get it.

        • KenoshaMarge

          I too want to see a woman in the Oval Office. But a woman of competence, integrity, intellect and with a deep love of the country she would be called upon to govern. Just as I don’t vote entirely by race, I won’t vote entirely by gender.

          Hillary Clinton cares more for ideology and party than country and Michelle Obama cares more for Michelle Obama than country. So no, I wouldn’t vote “woman” should either of these two run.

          However should Cathy McMorrie Rogers or Kristi Noem. Both need more seasoning and experience but they have time and the brains to get them.



    Iran claims it captured a US drone. Navy says it is not one of ours

    • TeakWoodKite

      The Iranians will show it off sooner or later if they have another one. If you can hack them with RadioShack parts…or Russian assistance…
      stay tuned.

  • getfitnow

    And how about this BS coming out of this admin? How’s that post-racism work out?


    • shelldoll2

      This so called smart aide does know the Democrats were the party of slavery? Talk about rewriting history. It’s too bad most Americans won’t look up the facts to find out the truth.

      • KenoshaMarge

        I’m sure he knows but I find it doubtful that most of the obamavoters know.
        MSM make sure that only the “facts” they consider important are told to a mostly woefully ignorant electorant.

        • HELENK2

          notice that there is NO outrage that backtrack’s BFF morsi has a new constitution that reinstates slavery in Egypt. just crickets from the whole bunch

          • KenoshaMarge

            As long as this corrupt bunch is in power the national symbol should be the cricket instead of the majestic eagle. Or a cockroach.

  • KenoshaMarge

    I will not bother with this dreck either. Seeing the Follywood blow-jobs for politicians during the last election I can barely stomach to watch any of their product.

    Anything that is supposed to be “reality” based cannot, and will not, be presented honestly by people who have no connection with reality. I suspect the movie will do fine with a public that doesn’t react well to reality either.

    • elizabethrc

      I can’t, in good conscience spend a dime on a movie, given the vicious attacks on the Right by most of the Hollywood numnuts. I hope that they go the way of the NYTimes, which I have read is struggling financially even with their online options.
      When you have intellectually brilliant examples like Streisand and Samuel L Jackson, among many others, presuming to tell us how wrong we are about Obama’s greatness (Jackson now calls Michelle a “Superwoman” who could be President), the only people who will be impressed by their by them are equally dimwitted people.
      They would have us believe that Obama has a ‘mandate’ on just about everything he chooses to do. 51-49 is no mandate!
      How do we fight against complacency after this election? Disspirited, for sure when Iwe are faced every single day with the evidence of Obama’s mismanagement: rising food prices, threats against the home mortgage deduction (which has made homeownership possible for so many of us and is our only source of retirement funds) which will decimate homeownership in this country, in addition to a growing number of restrictions and invasions into our privacy rights, and so much more, the fear of his malignant decisions makes me, personally very sad about where this country may go. Only in Hollywood are there white knights to ride to the rescue. Reality is much more mundane and it seems that more people like fairy dust than honest sweat and scut work.

      • KenoshaMarge

        And if they can’t get enough attention running their yaps about things they know nothing about they can always throw in another awards show to pat themselves on the back about how wonderful they are. GAG! I watch none of this crap as celebutards strut in garmets that would support the poor they claim to be so concerned with.
        Phony to their liberal core.


    NATO to approve patriot missiles to Turkish border with Syria.


    • KenoshaMarge

      Now that sounds like a great plan. More arms, more missiles, more killing. Bravo NATO, bravo. /s

  • no_longer_a_democrat

    ” I won’t be seeing this piece of fantasy. ”

    Nope, I won’t either. I’m sure it will win best movie, because that’s how lefty hollywood works, maybe Soetero can go accept that best movie Oscar.

  • Popsmoke

    Hell I am surprised that the Obama dog is not producing a flick about how he sniffed out bin Laden….

    • HARP2

      I`m thinking the dog has probably committed suicide by now.


    anything in it about the doctor who is in jail for helping us get ben laden? He seems to be paying a very high price for that.

    • Fred82

      Care to take bets on how many more people will rush to aid the US after that one?