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in Filmmaking
on Apr 25, 2007

The problem with our sound-bite culture is that stuff that’s not a sound bit rarely makes it onto a news. But as any good film director can tell you, sometimes a person saying nothing can communicate so much more than an actor delivering the most eloquently written monologue.

Over at The Huffington Post, director Alex Gibney blogs about his new doc, Taxi to the Dark Side, and, more specifically, Alberto Gonzalez. He poses the question, “Is Alberto Gonzalez stupid?” and wonders whether the Attorney General’s testimony last week is truly as hapless at it appeared or whether there was a grand strategy at work.

Here’s an excerpt from his posting about Gonzalez and then a clip with the A.G. from Taxi, which has its premiere at Tribeca this week.

[Gonzalez’s] brilliant moment in Taxi to the Dark Side comes when he is being grilled by Senator Carl Levin and Senator John McCain about the rules of evidence proposed by the administration in its version of the Military Commissions Act. Sen. Levin recites a litany of torture techniques – including waterboarding and forced nudity – and asks Gonzales if testimony obtained through these techniques would be admissible in the military commissions proposed by the Bush Administration. “Well sir, I think most importantly, I can’t imagine such testimony would be reliable,” says Gonzales. He cleverly sounds like he has answered the question, but he hasn’t, and so the proceedings move along.

Then John McCain asks Gonzales if testimony obtained through illegal inhumane treatment would be prohibited. After this question, Gonzales pauses, starts to speak, stops, seems to search for mendacious inspiration – does he hear the words “my precious”? – tries to speak again and then finally, after a chilling pause of 20 seconds he answers, “The concern that I would have about such a prohibition is what does it mean, how you define it?”

Brilliant! Torture: it depends on how you define it. The answer is insipid, immoral and obscene.

But, in a Machiavellian context, it is not wrong.

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