Senators Step Up Pressure on CIA to Turn Over 'Zero Dark Thirty' Documents

5. Zero Dark Thirty

I believe Kathryn Bigelow puts it all together here, more than she did in The Hurt Locker, as there are more elements and issues at play here that were challenging to balance. From the beginning of her career, the director has explored a lean, thoughtful, non-ideological visualization of action and violence, and it's both ironic and gratifying that she finally found a way to channel that abiding interest and to place a driven female character at the center of it.

FILM REVIEW: Zero Dark Thirty

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain question whether the CIA misled director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal.

Three senior U.S. senators who have assailed Oscar contender Zero Dark Thirty for alleged factual inaccuracies now are raising the possibility that the CIA might have misled director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal and are demanding that the agency turn over documents that could clarify the question.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., have attacked the cinematic portrayal of the decadelong hunt for Osama bin Laden because they believe it suggests that information obtained by torturing Al Qaeda detainees aided in the search for the terrorist kingpin.

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However, in a Dec. 19 letter to acting CIA director Michael Morell, the lawmakers expressed a concern that “given the CIA’s cooperation with the filmmakers and the narrative’s consistency with past public misstatements by former senior CIA officials, filmmakers could have been misled by information they were provided by the CIA.” The senators went on to demand that the intelligence agency turn over to them “all information and documents provided to the filmmakers by CIA officials.”

In a second letter sent Dec. 31, Feinstein, Levin and McCain responded to an unusual message Morrell sent to all CIA employees on Dec. 21. In that message, which was posted to the agency's website, the acting director stated that “some [intelligence related to bin Laden’s location] came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques, but there were many other sources as well.”

Morell's statement irked Feinstein because it contradicts the Senate Intelligence Committee's recently released report, which concluded that no information obtained through torture played a constructive role in tracking bin Laden to the hiding place in Pakistan where he ultimately was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs. The Senate study was based on information from members of the CIA, including Morell. 

The three lawmakers’ second letter demands that the acting director provide them with any information obtained from CIA detainees subjected to so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” and whether such information was provided prior to, during or after the detainee was subjected to torture.

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The senators noted that Morrell has acknowledged in an e-mail that he personally met with the filmmakers for 40 minutes to provide “substance.”

"Another publicly released CIA email states that 'As a [sic] Agency, we’ve been pretty forward-leaning with [the filmmaker], and he’s agreed to share scripts and details about the movie with us so we’re absolutely comfortable with what he will be showing,' ” the senators wrote.

"Given the discrepancy between the facts above and what is depicted in the film, previous misstatements by retired CIA officials, as well as what appears to be the CIA’s unprecedented cooperation with the filmmakers, we request that you provide the Committee with all information and documents provided to the filmmakers by CIA officials, former officials, or contractors, including talking points prepared for use in those meetings."

The texts of both letters from the senators were released late Thursday in Washington.

Sony, which is releasing Zero Dark Thirty in the U.S., declined to comment.