US Senators question accuracy of movie over Osama

Last Updated: Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 10:26

Washington: A group of three top American Senators have questioned the accuracy of the upcoming movie based on the hunt and killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and asked for a clarification from its distributor.

In a letter to the distributor of the film -- "Zero Dark Thirty" -- Sony Pictures, the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, Dianne Feinstein; the Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman, Carl Levin and the Senate Armed Service Committee Ranking Member, John McCain, have described the movie as "grossly inaccurate and misleading".

They have questioned particularly graphic scenes of CIA officers in movie torturing detainees that "credits these detainees with providing critical lead information" on the courier that led to the bin Laden compound.

"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," the Senators wrote in the letter.

"We write to express our deep disappointment with the movie Zero Dark Thirty. We believe the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Osama bin Laden," they said.

"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 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 the Osama Bin Laden," the letter said.

"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," it said.

The Senate Intelligence Committee`s recently-adopted Study of the CIA`s Detention and Interrogation program, Committee staff reviewed more than six million pages of records from the Intelligence Community, the letter noted.

Based on that review, the CIA did not first learn about the existence of the Laden`s courier from CIA detainees subjected to coercive interrogation techniques.

"Nor did the CIA discover the courier`s identity from detainees subjected to coercive techniques. No detainee reported on the courier`s full name or specific whereabouts, and no detainee identified the compound in which Osama Bin Laden was hidden."

"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," it said.

"Information to support this operation was obtained from a wide variety of intelligence sources and methods. CIA officers and their colleagues throughout the Intelligence Community sifted through massive amounts of information, identified possible leads, tracked them down, and made considered judgments based on all of the available intelligence," the letter said.

Observing that they are fans of many of Sony movies, and understanding the special role that movies play in lives, the Senators said the fundamental problem is that people who see Zero Dark Thirty will believe that the events it portrays are facts.

The film therefore has the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner. Recent public opinion polls suggest that a narrow majority of Americans believe that torture can be justified as an effective form of intelligence gathering."

"This is false. We know that cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners is an unreliable and highly ineffective means of gathering intelligence," the Senators said.

"The use of torture in the fight against terrorism did severe damage to America`s values and standing that cannot be justified or expunged. It remains a stain on our national conscience."

"We cannot afford to go back to these dark times, and with the release of Zero Dark Thirty, the filmmakers and your production studio are perpetuating the myth that torture is effective. You have a social and moral obligation to get the facts right," the Senators said.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 10:26

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