Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, is renowned for its secrecy. Given the nature of Shin Bet’s work, it’s remarkable that filmmaker Dror Moreh was able to secure interviews with six of the agency’s former heads for his Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers.

Given that these men all faced the same endless task, they are a surprisingly diverse bunch. One thing they have in common, however, is a willingness to be candid about their failures and frustrations. The treatment of Palestinian prisoners, the Oslo Accords, the first Intifada, and domestic terrorism are all analyzed with refreshing and sometimes surprising frankness.

Those tasked with keeping civilians safe from terrorism in one of the most contentious regions in the world have lessons for American policy makers. Although Shin Bet sometimes engaged in assassinations, at least one of its former leaders seemed open to dialogue. Another noted that in a war on terrorism, you can win every battle and still lose the war. —Matthew Feeney