Interview with “Fair Game” director Doug Liman
In an interview with The Daily Caller, “Fair Game” director Doug Liman showed a stunning ignorance about the Valerie Plame affair for a man who claims to have thoroughly fact-checked the film. After pressing Liman about several scenes depicted in the film, using the bipartisan Robb-Silberman Commission report as my guide, TheDC got the impression he was completely unfamiliar with the report.
“Did you read the Robb-Silberman report before making the film?” TheDC asked.
“My writers did,” he said.
Which is another way to say “no.”
(It should be noted that the most relevant portion of the report as it pertains to the events depicted in “Fair Game” is less than 100 pages long. I suppose it is understandable that Liman didn’t take the hour or two necessary to read it — it is, after all, only the most comprehensive and authoritative report ever produced on the subject the movie covers.)
Liman kept trying to prove his interpretation of events by referencing the declassified 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq.
“I’ve actually seen the NIE,” Liman said. “The beauty of making this film years after the fact is that so many documents have been declassified. And so you can actually read the actual documents the president and vice president were presented.”
The NIE was declassified in 2003, at least parts of it. And, as should be obvious, it was read and incorporated into both the Senate report and the Robb-Silberman Commission report. It also doesn’t do anything to bolster Liman’s case. Indeed, beyond uranium acquisition, the NIE supports more generally that Iraq was pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
“Iraq does not yet have a nuclear weapon or sufficient material to make one but is likely to have a weapon by 2007 to 2009,” the NIE reads in one section.
“Most agencies believe that Saddam’s personal interest in and Iraq’s aggressive attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuge rotor — as well as Iraq’s attempts to acquire magnets, high-speed balancing machines, and machine tools — provide compelling evidence that Saddam is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad’s nuclear weapons program. (DOE agrees that reconstitution of the nuclear program is underway but assesses that the tubes probably are not part of the program.),” the NIE reads in another section.
The NIE does contain a reservation from one intelligence agency, but it makes clear that the intelligence community as a whole estimated with “moderate confidence” that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program and that the country could have a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade.
Liman is left to argue that the Bush administration should have listened to the DOE.
“When you have the Department of Energy telling you the tubes are poor choices, that they are poorly suited, those were their words, for weapons production and the DOE is the expert when it comes to gas centrifuges, I would listen. You can’t get any more forceful than that,” he said.
It is true the DOE was in the minority of the intelligence community in dissenting from the aluminum tubes aspect of the nuclear case against Iraq. But it also joined with the intelligence community to assess that Iraq had a nuclear program that could produce a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade. If you are wondering what Liman’s point here is by pointing out one intelligence agency dissenting from the aluminum tubes analysis or how this piece of information provides any evidence that the Bush administration intentionally promoted false claims to push the country into war, you are not alone.
When pressed to tell TheDC what information he had, as he claimed, that the Robb-Silberman Commission didn’t have when it issued its report, Liman first suggested that he had talked to Plame’s CIA colleagues.
The Robb-Silberman Commission interviewed, in its words, “hundreds of experts from inside and outside the Intelligence Community …”
When pressed further to see what else he may have had that the Robb-Silberman Commission didn’t have access to, Liman said that he talked to an FBI agent who had some information about the matter and that he had Karl Rove’s memoir, which had not yet been published when the commission issued its report. Pretty paltry stuff.
Liman also claimed that he reached out to Scooter Libby’s attorneys to get his side of the story.
“We made several attempts to speak with Scooter Libby, through more than one lawyer,” he said.
When asked to name the lawyers, he replied that the lawyers “specifically asked me not use their names.”
But one of Libby’s attorneys told TheDC that he polled Libby’s attorneys involved in the case and none of them said they were contacted by Liman or anyone else associated with the movie.
“My law firm serves as counsel to Mr. Libby. We were not contacted,” said Alex J. Bourelly, an attorney at Baker Botts LLP, in an e-mail to TheDC, “and we are told by Mr. Libby’s other counsel that they were not contacted, during the preparation of the movie ‘Fair Game’ by the Director, or anyone else associated with the film, to discuss or screen the film, or to approach Mr. Libby to see if he would discuss or screen the film.”
He continued: “Counsel for Mr. Libby were publicly disclosed during the trial and are easy to find.”
Despite all the major myths propagated by his film that could have been corrected with just a minimal amount of reading, Liman somehow seems to view himself as some top-notch researcher, saying that if one was going to “pick a filmmaker who was just going to create a puff piece, that was just going to tell their [Wilson and Plame’s] point of view exclusively, I would not have been the filmmaker chosen.”
“I’m way too strong-willed and I have too strong of a background in research,” he told TheDC. “If I was Valerie and Joe and just wanted someone to parrot my side of the story there are other filmmakers who would be infinitely better choices than Doug Liman.”’
Actually, if you were Valerie Plame or Joe Wilson, it doesn’t seem like you could do much better than Doug Liman.