Nothing But the Truth (2008) Poster

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  • Rachel Armstrong (Kate Beckinsale) is a newspaper reporter who reveals the identity of a covert CIA agent, Erica Van Doren (), causing Van Doren to be outed from the Central Intelligence Agency. Rachel is subsequently hounded by prosecuting attorney Patton Dubois (Matt Dillon) to reveal her source, that is, the individual who leaked the information about van Doren.

  • Nothing But the Truth is based on a screenplay written by filmmaker Rod Lurie, who also directed the movie. The story somewhat parallels the case of Plamegate in which Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA operative and wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, IV, was outed from the CIA after her husband wrote a New York Times editorial charging the Bush administration with manipulating intelligence to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, the movie is not meant to depict the Plame affair but merely to explore a similar situation in a fictional story.

  • Rachel reveals that Erica, as a covert CIA operative, investigated an assassination attempt on the life of U.S. President Lyman (Scott Williamson). Erica determined that Venezuelan president Lopez and the Venezuelan government was not involved in the assassination attempt and presented documentation as such to the CIA who subsequently advised the U.S. government of Venezuelan innocence. However, the report was ignored, and the U.S. retaliated against Venezuela anyway. This information makes headlines across the country and effectively libels the U.S. government by informing the public that President Lyman authorized retaliation against Venezuela while being advised by the CIA that they were innocent of involvement.

  • According to section 421 of title 50 of the U.S. Code, enacted in 1982, it is a felony for anybody to knowingly divulge the identity of a covert operative. It carries penalties of ten years in prison and 50,000 USD or both for each offense. 50 U.S.C. ยง 421 (c) reads: Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. In short, the person who revealed Erica's identity as a secret CIA operative committed a fairly serious crime, one likable to treason, against the United States. However, the offense is much more serious than the designated penalty, since breaches of this nature put the exposed operative's life and well-being at risk, and in turn, the operative is just about always assassinated or captured by adversaries of the United States, or those who want revenge against the specific operative or that operative's superior officer. In addition, every breach raises the question of whether there is a mole or a traitor in civil or military ranks, creating an atmosphere of paranoia. The culprit could be somebody who is out to get even more agents, or soldiers, civilians or people in general harmed; or to execute a coup. So, the government is always very highly motivated to determine to source of an information leak, in order to close up any loose ends. The law allows the executive branch to do this in a constitutional, respectful, lawful and orderly manner.

  • One of the words that Erica uses to describe Rachel is "water-walker". It is a derogatory term used to describe an idealist who places principle above everything else. A water-walker sees his or her cause as divinely-bestowed and sees himself or herself as performing an impossible or godlike task, like walking on water.

  • Probably her attorney, Albert Burnside (Alan Alda), said it best when he was addressing the U.S. Supreme Court in regarding Rachel: In 1972 in Branzburg v Hayes, this court ruled against the right of reporters to withhold the names of their sources before a grand jury, and it gave the power to the government to imprison those reporters who did. It was a 5-4 decision. Close. In his dissent in Branzburg, Justice Stewart said, "As the years pass, the power of the government becomes more and more pervasive. Those in power," he said, "whatever their politics, want only to perpetuate it, and the people are the victims." Well, the years have passed, and that power is pervasive. Ms. Armstrong could have buckled to the demands of the government. She could have abandoned her promise of confidentiality. She could have simply gone home to her family. But to do so would mean that no source would ever speak to her again, and no source would ever speak to her newspaper again, and then tomorrow when we lock up journalists from other newspapers, we'll make those publications irrelevant as well, and this will make the First Amendment irrelevant. And then how will we know if a president has covered up crimes? Or if an army officer has condoned torture? We, as a nation, will no longer be able to hold those in power accountable to those whom they have power over. And what then is the nature of government when it has no fear of accountability?

  • The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides for protection of the freedoms of religion, speech (expression), press (publication) and assembly (association). It reads:Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  • Rachel actually had three sources. Two are revealed early in the movie. One is a published CIA document, probably the one written by Erica Van Doren. The second was Riggins (David Bridgewater), the drunken man at the garden party, and it was Riggins himself who confessed to being a source. However, Rachel already knew about Erica when she approached Riggins for information, so there must have been a third source, the individual who alerted Rachel to Erica's identity in the first place. Rachel gave her promise not to reveal that source, and she sticks with her promise.

  • The Supreme Court decides against Armstrong and in favor of national security. However, Judge Hall (Floyd Abrams), the judge who sentenced Rachel to jail, decides to free her on the grounds that he can only keep her jailed if he thinks that it will get Rachel to reveal the source. After Rachel has already spent a year in jail and been beaten within an inch of her life, Hall is convinced that Rachel is not about to divulge that information. The judge hints to Dubois that Rachel would need to be convicted of a crime to remain in jail and that Dubois should dissolve the Grand Jury. Consequently, Rachel is released. As Bonnie (Angela Bassett), her boss at the Capital Sun Times, is driving her home, their car is pulled over by U.S. marshals, and Patton Dubois arrests Rachel for criminal contempt of court, obstruction of justice, and impeding a federal investigation. Faced with choosing to go to trial where she will almost certainly lose and be forced to serve another five years or with pleading guilty and taking a reduced sentence of two years, Rachel chooses the latter. Prior to being taken away to prison, Rachel asks to see her son Timmy (Preston Bailey). She apologizes to him for not letting him visit her in jail, but it's pretty apparent that Timmy has become distant to her affection. In the final scenes, as Rachel looks out of the window of the bus that is taking her to prison, she remembers another bus ride during which Erica's nine year old daughter Allison (Kristen Bough) innocently tells her about Erica working for the government in Venezuela, and Rachel promises not to tell anyone that she told her.

  • She wasn't charged with the same crime. The first time that she was jailed, she was charged with contempt of court for not obeying Judge Hall's order to reveal her source, a minor but jailable offense. After her release, she was arrested again by Dubois on criminal charges, which are much more serious.

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