Apr 14, 2015

HBO Explores CIA's Psychological Torture Tactics

After a brief period where fact-inspired spy dramas like Argo and Zero Dark Thirty portrayed some of the CIA's wins, we seem to be returning to the ever popular exploration of the Agency's disastrous missteps. While the Jeremy Renner drama Kill the Messenger sank quickly last fall (despite an exciting and truly harrowing first half reminiscent of All the President's Men), there are currently two Iran-Contra scandal movies in the works, two Edward Snowden movies, two three(!) Benghazi movies, and now two TV project's about CIA psychological torture techniques. We've already heard about ABC's MK Ultra miniseries from the writer of The Assets, which will examine the Agency's Scientific Intelligence Division's notorious 1960s experiments in human "behavioral engineering" using methods including sensory deprivation, hypnosis, torture and, most famously, LSD. But that kind of "enhanced interrogation" techniques are old hat now. To the U.S. government's unending embarrassment, Langley has continued to push the boundaries in that field. Deadline reports that HBO Films will examine today's brutal torture techniques used in the war on terror and popularized (if that's the word) late last year by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's so-called "torture report." According to the trade, Scott Z. Burns (whose many spy script credits include The Bourne Ultimatum, The Informant! and Steven Soderbergh's unfilmed version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) will write and direct Rorschach and Awe, based on the 2007 Vanity Fair article of the same name by Katherine Eban. Per Deadline, "Rorschach and Awe will explore how the CIA hired two psychologists to build a torture program with the full knowledge and cooperation of the American Psychological Association. In her article, Eban shed light on the roles of psychologists James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen as architects of the coercive interrogation tactics. For their services, the duo were rewarded with $180 million in CIA contracts, $81 million of which had been paid before the agreement was terminated in 2009."

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