He was asked of his opinion of David Petraeus, who recently became Director of Central Intelligence.
I think David Petraeus is one of the most talented Army officers of his generation. He represents a new breed. He studied Vietnam. He knows all about my dad. General McMaster, who is also in the movie, is now head of all intelligence in Afghanistan. General John Allen, Marine Corps, studied under my father. They know what it takes to win this kind of war. They’re not fighting the last war. They’re not William Westmoreland. They’re more Lawrence of Arabia. Admiral Eric Olson, just retiring now as head of all special operations, former head of Navy SEALs, was a Navy SEAL, launched the raid against Bin Laden—he told me, “I’m looking for Lawrences. I’m looking for the next Lawrence of Venezuela, Lawrence of Columbia, Lawrence of Yemen.” Very interesting. What are we doing and who’s watching? I support covert action as a tool. My father said repeatedly, “Covert action exists so there is an alternative between lodging a diplomatic protest and sending the U.S. Marines.” The trouble is: watch how we use that tool. One step too many and it all crumbles down. What are we afraid of? Because David Petraeus is the head of CIA and because CIA has enjoyed such success over the last year or two, the American public has basically written a blank check to the Agency, and this President is cashing it. He’s engaged in probably 250 ground attacks in the last four to six months. He’s doesn’t lay out a legal rationale. There’s some arguments on the table, but what are we afraid of? Debate it. And if we decide, like Schlesinger says, that we can’t stomach this kind of thing and it’s illegal and it’s not American and it goes against our character, then so be it, and live in that world. But at least openly debate it and don’t just let it lie there like a snake, because that snake will bite and the CIA will take the fall.
He was asked about how much he knew about his father’s work at the time.
I was probably more knowledgeable about his overt world than you might imagine. It’s not like I had been ignoring him and came home one day and thought, “Oh, I’ll make a movie about my father. What did he really do?” I pretty much was in and out of the house all through the ’60s and I went to Georgetown University, so I’m down the street from where we lived. My sister became ill, my father’s in Vietnam running the pacification Phoenix program from ’68 to ’71. So I graduated from high school and then I’m in Georgetown and I lived at home the first year. So I was pretty much in and out of the house. And then I did the same when the hearings began in the early ’70s. So we had quite a lot of conversations. And frankly if my father was here now, today, or certainly 15 years ago, or certainly in 1970, it would be a free-for-all. If I said, “God! It’s just immoral what’s going on.” I was very much against the war. I’d bring friends home. He’d argue very rationally. He kind of shut down when he was at the height of the war though. He’d come back and you could tell that his whole CIA crowd was leaving—shying away. The fun was out of it now for the Agency. The derring-do was sort of becoming really brutal. A lot of them left, actually, and turned against the war in the mid-’60s.
I think he—eventually, unfortunately—started to live in a bubble. He was over there and he’d come back here, and I don’t think he saw the extent of the resistance to the war and only at the very end did he acknowledge really that the war had lost the support of the American people and without the American people you’re not going to win this war. He just had a lot more stomach than most people have for this sort of thing. It’s an odd thing to say, but he just would push through and do it. You’re asking a lot of people when you’re asking them to behave like that and to be as single-minded as he was.