CIA hated Zero Dark Thirty

A snapshot from Zero Dark Thirty.
The CIA was so disturbed by the release of Zero Dark Thirty that it published a statement calling it inaccurate. The film depicts the assassination of Osama bin Laden, which the agency claims is “a dramatization, not a realistic portrayal of facts.”

Michael Morell, acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, posted a message on the agency’s public website, calling the film’s depiction of torture and interrogation methods fictional.

“The film takes significant artistic license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate,” Morell wrote. “What I want you to know is that Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatization, not a realistic portrayal, of the facts. 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.”

Morell also claims that the film only gives credit to capturing the terrorist leader to a few individuals, rather than the hundreds of officers who were involved. He also asserts that it enhanced interrogation techniques and attributed the capture of bin Laden to these torturous methods.

“I want you to remember that Zero Dark Thirty is not a documentary,” Morell wrote.

The CIA rarely comments on the accuracy or inaccuracy of Hollywood productions. The statement comes just days after senior senators Diane Feinstein, John McCain and Carol Levin complained to the film’s producers that it contains “grossly inaccurate and misleading” torture scenes. The senators demanded that the producers attach a disclaimer to the filming, stating that it “is not based on the facts, but rather part of the film’s fictional narrative.”

“We have reviewed CIA records and know that this is incorrect,” the senators wrote in a letter to Michael Lynton, the CEO of Sony Pictures.

“With the release of Zero Dark Thirty, the filmmakers and your production studio are perpetuating the myth that torture is effective,” they added. “We believe that you have an obligation to state that the role of torture in the hunt for Usama Bin Laden is not based on the facts.”

The government opposition to the film’s depiction of torture is perhaps noteworthy considering the CIA’s use of such methods under the Bush administration. Under the previous US president, the agency used method such as water-boarding and sleep deprivation on captured terrorist suspects, but these methods were purportedly reduced in 2004 and banned after President Obama took office. The CIA has not always been opposed to torturous interrogation techniques, but now claims to be disturbed by the film’s portrayal of such methods.