Senators condemn interrogation scenes in 'Zero Dark Thirty'
December 19th, 2012
09:50 PM ET

Senators condemn interrogation scenes in 'Zero Dark Thirty'

By Pam Benson

Three U.S. senators say the new film about the Osama bin Laden raid is "grossly inaccurate and misleading" in how it depicts CIA interrogations as torture and have called on the studio distributing "Zero Dark Thirty" to publicly state the movie is not based on fact.

In a bipartisan letter to Sony Pictures Entertainment on Wednesday, Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin and Republican Sen. John McCain said they were deeply disappointed in the film.

"Zero Dark Thirty is factually inaccurate, and we believe that you have an obligation to state that the role of torture in the hunt for Osama bin Laden is not based on the facts, but rather part of the films fictional narrative," the senators wrote.

The beginning of the movie depicts harrowing scenes of a suspected terrorist being interrogated at a secret CIA prison overseas using controversial harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding, which simulates drowning. The suggestion in the film is those coercive techniques aided in identifying the courier who eventually led to bin Laden's hideout.

Movie puts U.S. interrogation back in the spotlight

The senators' letter cites the recently completed nearly four-year review by the Senate Intelligence Committee of the CIA's interrogation and detention program, which includes details on the bin Laden operation. Although the report is classified, the letter to Sony includes a reference to a previous statement by Feinstein and Levin based on that review.

"The CIA did not learn about the existence of the (Osama bin Laden) courier from detainees subjected to coercive interrogation techniques. ... Instead, the CIA learned of the existence of the courier, his true name and location through means unrelated to the CIA detention and interrogation program."

The senators are concerned that people seeing the movie will think it represents fact and that torture will be accepted as an effective way of gathering intelligence. "The film therefore has the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner," the letter states.

Screenwriter on interrogation debate

The senators said "Zero Dark Thirty "was "perpetuating the myth that torture is effective" and maintained Sony has a "social and moral obligation to get the facts right."

Filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal issued a statement saying the film condenses 10 years of intelligence work into a 2 1/2-hour film.

"We depicted a variety of controversial practices and intelligence methods that were used in the name of finding bin Laden. 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," their statement said. "One thing is clear: the single greatest factor in finding the world's most dangerous man was the hard work and dedication of the intelligence professionals who spent years working on this global effort. We encourage people to see the film before characterizing it."

"Zero Dark Thirty" opened in theaters on Wednesday.

Opinion: The real women of the CIA

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Filed under: 9/11 • McCain • Osama bin Laden
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