CIA Director’s “Zero Dark Thirty” Statement

CIA Acting Director Michael Morell issued a statement on “Zero Dark Thirty” on Friday, taking issue from stances where he says the film “departs from reality.”

“What I want you to know is that ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ is a
dramatization, not a realistic portrayal of the facts,” he said in a statement issued on Friday. “CIA interacted
with the filmmakers through our Office of Public Affairs but, as is true
with any entertainment project with which we interact, we do not
control the final product.”

Three senators, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John McCain (R-Arizona) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), sent a letter to Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Michael Lynton on Thursday, blasting the movie as one that suggested that the use of torture yielded valuable information in the hunt for Bin Laden.

Morell, however, was more nuanced in how he described the role of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in yielding information.

He wrote that “the film 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 Ladin.  That impression is false. 
As we have said before, the truth is that multiple streams of
intelligence led CIA analysts to conclude that Bin Ladin was hiding in
Abbottabad.  Some came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques,
but there were many other sources as well.  And, importantly, 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.”

The film does show the use of torture to extract some information from detainees, but it also shows how it led to misinformation and dead ends.

Sony had no comment, but the lawmakers’ letter triggered a backlash of sorts among some industry creatives as an effort to interfere with the filmmaking process. And Washington Post columnist David Ignatious asked if this was en effort among lawmakers to “intimidate” studios and writers to protray events as they would like them to be portrayed.

He writes, “The film is more nuanced and ambiguous about whether information
obtained after the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques helped
targeters find Osama bin Laden’s courier, and then the al-Qaeda leader.
So is the CIA’s own reading of the evidence, based on administration
officials’ comments. They’re against torture, too, but they think it’s a
mistake to soften the edges of the debate by suggesting that it didn’t
provide useful information in the hunt for bin Laden and the broader
fight against al-Qaeda.”

Morell’s complete statement is below:

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