Frontline: The Dark Side

Got this in the email tonight.

  • This Week: “The Dark Side” (90 minutes),
    Tuesday, Jun. 20 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings)
  • Inside FRONTLINE: Some rare interviews
  • Live Discussion: Chat with producer Michael Kirk Wed., June 21, at 11
    am ET

In a series of films presented by FRONTLINE over the past few years,
veteran producer Michael Kirk has taken us inside the struggles at the
highest levels of the Bush administration over how the war on terror
would be defined and fought.

In our report this Tuesday, “The Dark Side,” Kirk gets to the heart of
one of the most important internal conflicts whose outcome would result
in what a former insider says is a CIA that “has lost its shine.”

It was Vice President Cheney who used the phrase, ‘the dark side,’ in a
frank description of what would have to be done to fight the war on
terror. Shortly after 9/11 he said: “We’ll have to work the dark side,
if you will. We’re gonna spend time in the shadows of the intelligence
world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done
quietly, without any discussion…”

What we didn’t understand at the time was that a battle was brewing
inside the administration between Cheney and the then-CIA director,
George Tenet, over the gathering of intelligence and how that
intelligence would be used to define the terms of the war that would
soon be underway. Producer Kirk notes he has rarely seen so many
insiders coming forward, “CIA officers aren’t often willing to talk on
the record to the press. In this broadcast we have the top echelon that
worked directly for George Tenet, and many field operatives who were
willing to share their experiences and insights into the war on terror.
That told me something significant was happening, and that ‘something’
turned out to be what some have called a ‘covert war’ between the Office
of the Vice President and the CIA.”

As we present the insider view of what happened to George Tenet and the
CIA, we also recall the historical context for the Vice-President’s lack
of confidence in that agency and why he was determined to both go around
it and bend it to his will.

We invite you to join us this Tuesday night and afterward, visit our web
site where we offer the extended interviews with top members of the
intelligence community and more background on the issues and people
covered. And, take the opportunity to watch our report again online and
express your opinion about it at

This sounds awesome.

Yup. I’m posting too much but, then again, too much is going on. Summary of previews of The Dark Side (again from Froomkin’s column):

‘The Dark Side’

Sam Allis writes in a Boston Globe review: " ‘Frontline’ delivers a devastating look tonight at the efforts of Vice President Dick Cheney to gain control of the war on terror after 9/11. In doing so, the show purports, he compromised the integrity of America’s intelligence system. . . .

" ‘Frontline’ chronicles the brutal campaign by two consummate political in-fighters – Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld – to decimate the CIA, politically emasculate Secretary of State Colin Powell, and construct a near-limitless concept of executive power during war. While many of these strands are familiar, they have not been assembled as effectively before on television to present a coherent picture of what happened after 9/11."

David Bianculli writes in the New York Daily News: “Simply by underlining in red the names of Cheney loyalists on the organizational flow chart of the George W. Bush administration, ‘The Dark Side’ shows how deep Cheney’s influence stretches.”

Glenn Garvin writes in the Miami Herald: “Precisely because it avoids looney-tune conspiracy theories about Halliburton and oil pipelines, and stays away from name-calling in favor of old-fashioned journalism, Frontline presents a powerful indictment of the White House’s decision to go to war.”

Alessandra Stanley isn’t quite as positive in the New York Times: " ‘The Dark Side’ is so intent on hammering home how Mr. Cheney twisted arms – and the facts – that it allows the C.I.A. to whitewash its own failings."

That comment by Stanley is pretty telling. All these anti-Bush/Cheney docs and books these days seem to be relying on biased sources within the administration, principally pissed-off CIA agents. I’m not saying that what they’re saying isn’t the truth, but that people should be more careful at just believing these people because they hate Bush. Remember, these sources have huge CYA reasons for their comments, seeing as 9/11 was the biggest intelligence failure in US history.

Yeah. Bush got a head’s up and he punted. That’s the intelligence that failed.

Just the fact that you believe everything played out that simply shows off your bias. Do you really think it was as basic as “I tried to tell George all about everything, but he told me to piss off, and the next day kaboom!”?

Because even though I do think Bush was and is a buffoon, I find it hard to blame him for how the hijackers, many of whom had known ties to terrorist groups, got into the US in the first place. Some even stayed after their visas expired. Also, Muhammad Atta, for instance, was under the surveillance of the CIA in Europe as early as 1999, due to his terror affiliations in Hamburg. Yet he was still allowed to enter the US a year later, take flight lessons, and lead the 9/11 plot.

So, yeah, I agree that Bush screwed up. But what the hell was he supposed to be doing? Watching all the airports himself? Checking student visas? I don’t know how you can shrug off the massive intelligence screw-ups that allowed the hijackers to get into the US in the first place, and ignore the skeletons in the closets of a lot of the people so eager to bury the Bush admin.

I don’t shrug them off but I do think that if you get a memo that says “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in United States” and you’re The President it demands a bit more of a response than nothing. Imagine if it had been a Democratic president. You think we still wouldn’t be hearing about it and seeing footage of him reading a children’s book for however long it was after hearing the towers were hit?

Yes, the problem is bigger than Bush but it infuriates me how easily he gets off the hook every single frigging time. You can’t tell me his letting Rumsfeld and Cheney get their war in Iraq didn’t screw things up even worse.

Where does the buck stop here?

How many of the people in these books really “hate Bush”? I see a huge number of serious professionals who hate how this administration screwed up everything after Afghanistan. That I see clear as day. Colin Powell’s chief of staff, the counter-terrorism chief, cabinet members, many senior military and intelligence officials. Going public! This has never happened before on this scale.

Yet they all get shuffled off as Bush haters. Sweet. Yes I’m angry. Not at you but, man, look at yourself before you start telling other people what to believe. Where do you get your information?

The content of this documentary had nothing to do with how the administration screwed up the 9/11 intelligence.

It is entirely about the Afghanistan response, and everything that went on behind the scenes in the leadup to Iraq.

Toddy brought it up and they did interview Suskind whose book mentions the whole “Now you’ve covered your ass” episode post-memo.

But Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and the neocons should be hung in a public square for what they’ve gotten us into. It’s stunning to me these people are still in power and the press still seems deferential to them.

Thought the show was excellent. Maybe a little biased towards CIA, but that is the bulk of who they interviewed.

Perhaps the most interesting thrust was the way Tenet got caught in the orbit of personal friendship with Bush and that it compromised his role and independence, and thus the accuracy of his intelligence analyses. I never understood how Tenet went from defending positions contrary to Cheney and Rumsfeld into providing the backbone of Powell’s presentation to the UN. The case made on the show was pretty plausible.