Senators slam ‘gross inaccuracies’ in Katherine Bigelow film Zero Dark Thirty

Members of government involved in intelligence have baulked at suggestions in the film that torture was used to obtain information in the hunt for al-Qa'ida leader Osama bin Laden

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The Independent Culture

Three American senators have written to the film studio behind Katherine Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty claiming the film is “grossly inaccurate and misleading” for its suggestion that torture played a role in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatization the 10-year pursuit of the al-Qa’ida chief which led to his location and death in Pakistan last year.

Senators including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, who has seen a preview of the Oscar-tipped film, have responded to suggestions in the film that intelligence used to find bin Laden was obtained via the waterboarding of an accused terrorist.

“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 film’s fictional narrative,” reads the letter, addressed to Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Michael Lynton.

Feinstein's co-signatories include Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman Carl Levin and Senate Armed Service Committee Ranking Member John McCain.

It continues: “We understand that the film is fiction, but it opens with the words ‘based on first-hand accounts of actual events’ and there has been significant media coverage of the CIA’s cooperation with the screenwriters. As you know, the film graphically depicts CIA officers repeatedly torturing detainees and then credits these detainees with providing critical lead information on the courier that led to Osama bin Laden. Regardless of what message the filmmakers intended to convey, the movie clearly implies that the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques were effective in eliciting important information related to a courier for Osama bin Laden. We have reviewed CIA records and know that this is incorrect.”

Oscar-winning film director Bigelow and Zero Dark Thirty writer Mark Boal have responded to the letter in a statement explaining that the film was not intended to be political.

It reads: "This was a 10-year intelligence operation brought to the screen in a two-and-a-half-hour film. We depicted a variety of controversial practices and intelligence methods that were used in the name of finding bin Laden.”

Continuing: “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. 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."