A few months ago, I wrote about Top Chef’s reality show challenge–cooking for Leon Panetta and the CIA. At the time, I couldn’t find a digital copy of the video, but it recently fell into my lap, so I thought I’d publish the relevant bit here. Keep in mind, as you watch this, that the United Nations was investigating whether or not the CIA’s drone campaign, responsible for the deaths of numerous Pakistani civilians [see here , some civilian mortality rates have been higher] was a war crime at that time. The jury is still out on the legality, but not on the heinous character of the atrocities, nor the justifiable anti-American rage being created in that country as a by-product of these attacks.
The theme of the cooking challenge was “covert cuisine”, and was accompanied by hideous, brain-liquefying allusions by the contestants to super-secret-super-agent mythologies–“funny” references to Get Smart, and various cloak and dagger puns and anecdotes. All contestants were apparently required to shoot a scene boasting of their pride in cooking for Panetta and his monstrous retinue, though they were equally and obliviously open about their perfect ignorance of the CIA’s role in their country’s foreign policy.
There is, in fact, nothing covert, secret or mysterious about what the CIA has been up to in recent history [let’s not even get into less recent history, such as mining the harbors of Nicaragua]. The CIA conducts many of its operations in the open. The CIA’s rendition program again achieved some level of media attention during the ascension of CIA buddy Omar Suleiman a few weeks ago. Suleiman personally oversaw torture for the CIA in Egypt during the CIA’s once covert, but by early 2010, highly notorious program of disappearance and torture. The CIA’s drone program, as I said, is also no secret.
None of this was “covert” during the filming or broadcast of this episode, and the evil director of these criminal acts was sitting right there sipping crappy soup for all to see.
If you can watch this clip from beginning to end in one sitting without closing the window in frustrated rage and/or nausea, you have a stronger constitution than I.