Three powerful US senators are demanding that the CIA provide details on the spy agency’s cooperation with the director of “Zero Dark Thirty,” Hollywood’s take on the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
In two letters sent to acting CIA director Michael Morell and released Thursday, the lawmakers express concern that the film wrongly implies that torture yielded information that played a key role in tracking down the Al-Qaeda terror leader.
Directed by Academy Award-winning Kathryn Bigelow, the movie tells the story of the decade-long search for bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, climaxing in the dramatic, deadly raid in May 2011 on his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Set to open in most US theaters on January 11 and generating major Oscar buzz, “Zero Dark Thirty” begins with a scene showing the torture of detainees, who eventually provide critical information for locating bin Laden.
However, a Senate Intelligence Committee inquiry concluded that the CIA did not first learn about the existence of a courier — through whom bin Laden was found — from CIA detainees subjected to “coercive interrogation techniques.”
In a message to Central Intelligence Agency employees in December, Morell said the movie “creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding bin Laden. That impression is false.”
Morell however acknowledged that “some” of the information “came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques. But there were many other sources as well.”
In a letter dated December 19, the senators — Republican John McCain, Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, and Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee — ask Morell to supply them with all documents and information provided to the filmmakers.
“The CIA cannot be held accountable for how the agency and its activities are portrayed in film, but we are nonetheless concerned… that the filmmakers could have been misled by information they were provided by the CIA,” they wrote.
In the second letter, dated December 31, the lawmakers asked Morell to offer specifics about what information relevant to the bin Laden hunt was obtained from CIA detainees subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
“When was this information provided: prior to, during, or after the detainee was subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques? If after, how long after? Please note whether such information corroborated information previously known to the CIA,” the senators wrote.
According to the correspondence, the filmmakers met with Morell for 40 minutes.
In a recent statement, Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal said “the film shows that no single method was necessarily responsible for solving the manhunt, nor can any single scene taken in isolation fairly capture the totality of efforts the film dramatizes.”