Acting CIA director Michael Morell said that “Zero Dark Thirty,” the Hollywood take on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, exaggerates the importance of information obtained by harsh interrogations.
The movie by Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow tells the story of the decade-long search after September 11, 2001, climaxing in last year’s dramatic and deadly raid in May on the Al-Qaeda terror leader’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The film shows US personnel using harsh interrogation techniques like water-boarding — a method many consider torture — to force captives to speak. The information obtained was crucial, according to the movie, in piecing together the trail that eventually lead to bin Laden.
In a message to Central Intelligence Agency employees Friday, he said that 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’s message, released to AFP, states that “multiple streams of intelligence” led CIA analysts to conclude that bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad.
He acknowledged that “some” of the information “came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques. But there were many other sources as well.”
Morell said that “whether enhanced interrogation techniques were the only timely and effective way to obtain information from those detainees, as the film suggests, is a matter of debate that cannot and never will be definitively resolved.”
Morell is widely believed to be a top candidate for the job of CIA director after the resignation of David Petreaus, America’s most celebrated military leader in a generation. Petreaus stepped down in November after admitting to an extra-marital affair with his biographer.
Morell’s message also follows a similar statement decrying the “Zero Dark Thirty” interrogation scenes signed by three senators, including Republican John McCain, himself a prisoner of war and torture victim during the Vietnam war.