PARK CITY, Utah—For more than six years, the former Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones led an investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation programs after 9/11, sifting through thousands of pages documenting torture, abuses of power, and the lack of accountability during the George W. Bush administration. But when Jones talks about his experience, he doesn’t come off as a cynic about the United States. “Over the years, you travel a lot, you talk to a lot of foreign governments, you talk to a lot of citizens,” he said Monday at the Sundance Film Festival, reflecting on a career that also included a stint as an international FBI agent. The United States is “a beacon, whether you want us to be or not … The building of post–World War II institutions, we’re responsible for that. In the War on Terror, we slipped.”
Jones is the subject of a new film written and directed by Scott Z. Burns called The Report, which debuted at Sundance on January 26 and has already been acquired by Amazon for a reported $14 million. A frequent collaborator of Steven Soderbergh, Burns is best-known for his meticulous, fact-based screenplays for films including The Informant! and Contagion. In his new movie, Burns takes Jones’s 6,700-page report and somehow boils it down to a comprehensible narrative. Adam Driver stars as Jones, while Annette Bening plays his boss, Senator Dianne Feinstein. Burns and Jones spoke with The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, in Park City, Utah, on Monday about the making of the film, the delicate political lines it crosses, and the Obama administration’s role in trying to suppress the report.