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December 10, 2007

Viacom lobbyists hired CIA torture team leader for "Kite Runner" movie

[Majikthise Exclusive]

A retired CIA agent who led the team that waterboarded terror suspect Abu Zubaydah went on to work as a security consultant for the film adaptation of The Kite Runner (2007).

Lobbyists for Viacom helped the producers of the film retain retired CIA agent and "countererrorism expert", John Kiriakou, according an Oct 4 article in the International Herald Tribune--before Kirkakou went public about his career as a torturer.

The producers of Kite Runner realized belatedly that the film's release might put movie's child stars in serious danger:

In late July, with violence worsening in Kabul, studio executives looked for experts who could help them chart a safe course. Aided by lobbyists for Viacom, Paramount's parent company, they found John Kiriakou, the retired CIA operative with experience in the region, and had him conduct interviews in Washington and Kabul.

"They wanted to do the right thing, but they wanted to understand what the right thing was," Kiriakou said. [IHT]

The Kite Runner is an adaptation of a Khaled Husseini novel that touches on ethnic tensions in Afghanistan, rape, and the Taliban. The release of the film was delayed for several weeks because the boys were getting threats and the producers needed time to get them out of Afghanistan.

On Dec. 5, the IHT reported that four young actors and accompanying adult relatives had been whisked off to the United Arab Emirates for their own protection:

Months of spadework by at least 20 studio executives, relief workers, diplomats and even a former CIA counterterrorism operative culminated last week when the boys, who were in the midst of final exams, obtained visas and boarded a plane for the United Arab Emirates. [IHT]

The film opens on Dec. 14.

Majikthise is first publication to report on Kiriakou's work as a security consultant in light of his torture revelations.

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Comments

Nice catch! Let's see if we can get this into the MSM.

I became exhausted merely rehashing and complaining about the news, a common enough path to the exits for many bloggers...which makes your vigilance and vigor the more admirable. I have always liked the tone of the moral analysis you provide on diverse news items but I think I am going to have to come round a bit more often so I don't mis any breaking stories.

Rich Klein of Kissinger McLarty seems to be H'wood's favorite fixer for middle east shoots these days, and he seems to be the one Paramount credits with organizing the boys' evacuation out of Afghanistan; is Kiriakou connected to KLA, as well, or did Paramount/Viacom hire him through another contact? And if Kiriakou is connected to Viacom, what's he doing peddling his hot story to ABC--was Couric busy today?

I'd love to know more about Kiriakou; I expect the right/torture lobby to eat up his "it had to be done" story line.

And now let me add: Monday on Nightline--John Kiriakou; Tuesday on Nightline--the makers of The Kite Runner. But, I suppose that's just a coincidence. . . .

Majikthise is first publication to report on Kiriakou's work as a security consultant in light of his torture revelations.

No kidding. That puts a distinctly different slant on both the movie and the torture revelations.

Ummm, I dunno, the two seem pretty orthogonal to me. I doubt the torture/interrogation experience came up when he was working with the movie people.

I mean, it's not like waterboarding is the only thing on the guy's resumé that he could parlay into a post-retirement career.

It just seems like a "huh, interesting" factoid, and little else.

No kidding. That puts a distinctly different slant on both the movie and the torture revelations.
If the IHT article is correct, Viacom hired Kiriakou after filming was over to get the boys out of Afghanistan. His involvement doesn't necessarily prove anything about any political agenda behind the film, if that's what you mean.

Congrats on the scoop.

I'm curious about why Kirkakou has gone public about waterboarding Abu Zabaydah. Is he gaming to get immunity. The idioptic anti-torture bill McCain sponsored protects CIA operatives.

Two videos of Kirkakou on the Dan Abrams show.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKD1d-cFz8Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTDFR7kgtSc

I don't think The Kite Runner has a political agenda. I think the producers shot first and asked questions later. They were so enamored of the idea of using real live Dari-speaking Afghan boys that they didn't think through the potential consequences. To be fair, the security situation deteriorated drastically between the time they cast the kids and the summer of 2007 when they got professional help.

RJ Hillhouse has some interesting theories about Kiriakou's motives.

"A retired CIA agent who lead . ."
Does this story have something to do with the metal lead? Or did the writer mean led?

Nice catch Linsay: While others waste their time scanning the net for news the vigilant are out there looking for typos.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Oops, My appologies Linsay, that should have read Bob. Or should that have been red?

My interest here is "who" the lobbyists for Viacom are, and "when, where, how and why" they connected with John Kiriakou. Also of course, "what" exactly were they looking for when they found and approached Kiriakou.

I'm sorry, but I'm missing the "scoop" here.

If the IHT reported on Oct 4:
"Lobbyists for Viacom helped the producers of the film retain retired CIA agent and "countererrorism expert", John Kiriakou" --

and again on Dec. 5:
"the IHT reported that four young actors and accompanying adult relatives had been whisked off to the United Arab Emirates for their own protection"

what is it new here that you're offering up? That you recognized the name of the guy who worked on the film is the same one who went public about his career as a torturer?

Except then you're saying "I don't think The Kite Runner has a political agenda."
Plus it sounds like the children might have been in danger, the film banned there, etc. no matter what, just based on the American subject of the film.

Are you saying the kids were whisked out only because of the Kiriakou connection? No.

I'm unsure exactly what you think the relevance of the "scoop" being revealed here.

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