CIA releases film about 2 officers held in China
Thursday, June 2, 2011
WASHINGTON (AP) — A documentary produced by the CIA and never aired outside the agency’s headquarters is coming to the Internet. The agency says it will release the film, about two CIA officers captured in China on a secret mission in 1952 and held for years, to the public.
The Associated Press has obtained a copy of the film under the Freedom of Information Act.
Titled “Extraordinary Fidelity,” the hourlong film blends documentary footage and re-enactments to tell the story of the officers shot down trying to recover a spy working for the CIA in the Manchuria region of northeastern China.
The two pilots of the plane died, but the CIA officers — Richard G. Fecteau and John T. Downey — were eventually freed in 1971 and 1973, respectively.
The film, the only one of its kind in the spy agency’s history, was intended only for internal release. But the CIA released it nearly one year after the AP filed a FOIA request for a copy.
Now, the CIA says it plans to upload the video to its YouTube channel on the web.
A big theme of the film is the behind-the-scenes efforts by CIA officials in Washington, throughout the men’s imprisonment, to keep their financial affairs in order and provide assistance to their families.
It features re-enactments of important scenes, including the ambush and the men’s harsh interrogations at the hands of the Chinese. Some portions were filmed at a former insane asylum in Petersburg, Va.; Fecteau and Downey themselves talk at length about their imprisonment.
The film was produced by the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence and first shown almost a year ago at CIA headquarters.
The CIA plans to show the movie to the public Thursday night at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
Paul Wimmer directed the film. He previously produced and directed a 2002 Discovery Channel documentary on the Sept. 11 attacks, “Pentagon Under Fire.”
And he served as a consulting producer for a 2009 National Geographic Channel documentary, “Great Escape: The Final Secrets,” about American prisoners during World War II.
As part of the FOIA request, the AP also asked for information about the film’s cost and how much Wimmer was paid. To ease processing, the CIA said it had turned this portion of the FOIA filing into a separate request. The agency said it is continuing to process this request.