DiCaprio film glamorizes Jordan's feared spy agency
Human rights groups charge the mukhabarat, portrayed in the new Ridley Scott movie 'Body of Lies,' with systematic torture.
The new Ridley Scott thriller "Body of Lies," which opens Friday, tells the story of a fictional collaboration between the CIA and Jordan's secret police. While Hollywood may romanticize Jordan's intelligence service, the facts, according to numerous reports, are more brutal than shown on the big screen.Skip to next paragraph
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Based on the novel "Penetration" by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, "Body of Lies" tells the story of a CIA operative played by Leonardo DiCaprio who attempts to infiltrate and destroy an Al Qaeda cell with the assistance of Hani Salaam, the fictional head of the General Intelligence Department (GID), or mukhabarat in Arabic.
Mr. Ignatius describes Mr. Salaam as an Arab-world James Bond: good looking, cool, and too savvy to use "inefficient" methods like torture. But international observers say the real GID is a far cry from its depiction in art.
Early in 2008, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published the results of interviews with more than a dozen former detainees who said they were tortured in GID custody. On Wednesday, the group issued a new report, alleging widespread torture in Jordan's regular prisons – particularly among Islamists convicted of national security crimes.
The allegations are based on unsupervised interviews with 110 prisoners in seven prisons around the country in 2007 and 2008. More than half of those interviewed said they had experienced some form of torture or ill-treatment, and 30 showed physical evidence of abuse. There were accounts that 5 out of 7 prison directors were involved.
"To root out torture you need to be able to name and shame, and prosecute where appropriate, those people who perpetrate that crime," says Christoph Wilcke, HRW's researcher for Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Former prime minister and head of Jordan's national human rights center, Adnan Badran, wrote Thursday in the Al Ghad newspaper that the new HRW report was accurate, but that the cases of torture they found were the actions of individuals, and not systematic.