The Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), is reviewing the cooperation that the CIA gave to “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, sources say.
Feinstein, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) sent a letter last month to Sony Pictures Entertainment chief Michael Lynton, objecting to the movie’s portrayal of torture and the role it played in yielding information that led to the capture of Osama bin Laden.
In response to the news of the Senate inquiry, a Sony Pictures spokesman said, in a statement, “As the studio distributing ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ in the United States, we
are proud of this important film. Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal and their
creative team have made an extraordinary motion picture and we fully
support bringing this remarkable story to the screen.”
It appears that a review of the contacts between the CIA and the filmmakers will delve into whether the CIA contacts helped influence the film’s suggestion that the harsh interrogation techniques were effective in extracting valuable information from detainees, according to Reuters, which first broke the story of the investigation on Wednesday. A source familier with the matter confirmed the investigation to Variety.
Already, in response to a request from House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), the Pentagon and CIA have been reviewing whether confidential information was given to filmmakers as they researched the script.
It’s unclear whether the inquiry will generate any additional information than that given to Judicial Watch, a conservative org who was given a trove of documents on the filmmaker contacts following a Freedom of Information Act request. It showed that they met with Michael Morell, the acting director of the CIA who was deputy chief in 2011.
Feinstein and the other lawmakers have criticized the movie as “grossly inaccurate and misleading” in showing that the use of coercive interrogation techniques led to Bin Laden. The filmmakers say that they show “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.” Indeed, the movie also depicts the enhanced interrogation techniques as leading to misinformation and dead ends, and the hunt for Bin Laden actually picking up genuine leads years later.
Morell issued a statement, characterizing the movie as “not a realistic portrayal of the facts.” But he also left open the possibility that enhanced interrogation techniques played some role in the path to Bin Laden. He said that “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 CIA also has gone a step further: It has posted on its site a new story — “Hollywood Myths vs. the Real CIA.”
Update: Writing earlier this week on CNN.com, former CIA director Michael Hayden said he thinks that it is “troubling” that lawmakers and the current CIA chief have felt compelled to be so vocal about a movie. He writes that “each of these story
lines has a thread of truth. CIA interrogations of more than 30
detainees were tough; the agency did derive significant intelligence
from them; and “Maya” was a real heroine.
“At the end of the day,
though, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ is a movie. Made by Hollywood. To be
dramatic. That this is being debated and that intelligence leaders are
being drawn into that debate is as revealing as it should be troubling.”