1. Update
  2. U.S. Wars & Militarism

Senate Investigation into CIA Torture Hits the Big Screen

By Don Chen, November 26, 2019


Currently in theaters and premiering Nov. 29 on Amazon Prime, “The Report” recounts a five-year effort by Senate staff to investigate the CIA’s use of torture after the Sept. 11 attacks. The resulting report—known as the Torture Report—revealed the staggering extent of the CIA’s disturbing and unethical interrogation program.

While a 525-page redacted version of the report’s executive summary was released in 2014, the full 6,700-page report remains classified. FCNL encourages Quakers and friends to organize screenings of “The Report” and take action in support of making the Senate’s full Torture Report public.

The CIA repeatedly misled Congress, the White House, and the Department of Justice about the extent, severity, and outcomes of the torture program.

The film stars Annette Bening as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA), the then-chair of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, and Adam Driver as Daniel J. Jones, the chief investigator of the Torture Report (full name: "The Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program"). After Sept. 11, the CIA began using “enhanced interrogation techniques” on prisoners held in secret “black sites” through its Detention and Interrogation Program. These methods, the most infamous of which was waterboarding, were cruel, traumatizing, and in at least one confirmed case, lethal.

Prompted by the discovery that the CIA had destroyed internal videotapes of the interrogations, the report’s executive summary shows that the CIA repeatedly misled Congress, the White House, and the Department of Justice about the extent, severity, and outcomes of the torture program. These forms of torture, developed by two psychologists with no experience in interrogation, failed to produce actionable intelligence or produced false information. Former CIA Director John Brennan himself admitted that the CIA did not know whether torture had produced any useful intelligence.

President Obama issued an executive order in 2009 prohibiting the use of torture, but some of those tortured by the CIA remain imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. Most of the 40 people held there have never been tried, or even charged, for any crime. And none of the perpetrators of the CIA’s torture program have been held accountable. In fact, former Thailand black site director Gina Haspel now serves as the current director of the CIA.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Host a screening and discussion of “The Report” in your community. The film comes out Nov. 29 on Amazon Prime. It offers a gripping and accurate portrayal of the program and the difficult work of the Senate staffers who compiled the report.
  • Write letters-to-the editor and op-eds in your local newspaper. Raise awareness of the movie and call for the release of the full Torture Report, while demanding that our government stop rewarding those responsible for torture.

For more information on hosting a screening of “The Report,” post-screening discussion questions, other ways to raise awareness, and the faith community’s role in opposing torture, please see this toolkit from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

Background The Torture Report 

Small steps are constantly being made in a long and difficult journey. We must learn from both the Torture Report and the recent Committee Against Torture review and admit responsibility. Only after acknowledging the full scope of U.S. torture can we heal and prevent these horrific mistakes from repeating themselves.

Don Chen

  • Program Assistant, Militarism and Human Rights

Don is the Program Assistant for Militarism and Human Rights. He works to move U.S. foreign policy towards a more peaceful and ethical direction, primarily supporting efforts to end the war in Afghanistan and repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Don works with nationwide grassroots supporters, coalition partners, members of Congress, and legislative staff to reduce the human cost of American foreign policy.