Thursday, July 17, 2008

New Vietnam War Movie Based on Non-Fiction Book Announced by HBO Films

The July 17th Daily Variety announced HBO Films is developing a movie based on former CIA agent Frank Snepp’s 1999 non-fiction book IRREPARABLE HARM: A FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT OF HOW ONE AGENT TOOK ON THE AGENCY IN AN EPIC BATTLER OVER FREE SPEECH.

This is a follow-up to his 1977 non-fiction book DECENT INTERVAL: AN INSIDER’S ACCCOUNT OF SAIGON’S INDECENT END, TOLD BY THE CIA’S CHIEF STRATEGY ANALYST IN VIETNAM.

Here’s the IRREPARABLE HARM review by John J. Miller (no relation) on the book’s Amazon page (boldface mine):

Former CIA spook Frank Snepp was one of the last Americans lifted off the U.S. embassy in Saigon in 1975, at the tail end of the Vietnam War. In the days leading up to that fateful moment, he complained that the United States needed to do more to protect its intelligence assets, most of whom were left behind.

"We'd betrayed the Vietnamese who'd depended on us," writes Snepp in Irreparable Harm, "and those who worked most closely with them ... now had blood on our hands, for it was we who in our daily contacts had convinced them to trust us."

Snepp criticized this turn of events in a 1977 book, Decent Interval, and was promptly sued by the CIA because they had not given him clearance to write about his experiences.

The resulting court case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Snepp tried to defend himself on First Amendment grounds with the help of a then-unknown Harvard lawyer named Alan Dershowitz.

He ultimately lost the case, plus his money and the right to publish anything about the CIA without first receiving authorization. Irreparable Harm--which has received CIA clearance--captures all the twists and turns of Snepp's legal fight …

I find it interesting that the HBO movie will be about the legal battle against a large bureaucracy – how many such movies have we seen? – rather than about the actual story: the U.S.’s betrayal of its South Vietnamese intelligence assets.

In intelligence lingo intelligence assets means people – people with families, people who trusted you at great risk to their own lives and the lives of their families. And we left those people behind to face almost-certain death at the hands of the North Vietnamese.

How many years from now might some former CIA agent write a similar story about leaving behind our intelligence assets in Iraq and Afghanistan – to face almost-certain death?


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