November 14, 2019
It was five years ago next month that the Senate intelligence committee released a 525 page redacted executive summary of the Torture Report, the name by which its 6,700 page study of the CIA’s post 9/11 detention and interrogation program is now known. For a brief moment, Americans from all walks of life looked behind the curtain at our government’s decision to torture and the myriad consequences that flowed. It was front page news and legitimately a topic of national discussion. Then it wasn’t.
For all of its importance—and it is critically important—the Torture Report’s executive summary is a dense congressional oversight report that was never going to have lasting cultural resonance. But movies do. That’s why tomorrow’s theatrical release of the film The Report, an honest telling of the CIA torture program and Congress’s struggle to investigate it, is so valuable.
The movie is a much-needed reminder that many people know very little about our government’s decision to torture in the aftermath of 9/11, and maybe even less about related developments since. We revisit some of that history below, not only because we think much work remains to be done to effectively safeguard against a return to government-sanctioned torture, but also because the predominant theme that runs through this tragic story—that truth and accountability matter—could hardly be more relevant today.