Acting CIA chief blasts "Zero Dark Thirty"

Michael Morell joins growing number of Washington insiders critical of how the film portrays role of torture

By David Daley
December 23, 2012 7:23PM (UTC)
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Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty"

Michael Morell -- the acting director of the CIA -- has added his voice to those critical of the way the new movie "Zero Dark Thirty" portrays the importance of torture in capturing Osama bin Laden.

According to the New York Times, Morell sent an internal memo to CIA employees on Friday, criticizing the "strong impression" in the film "that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding Bin Laden. That impression is false.”


According to the Times, the letter continued:

"The truth is that multiple streams of intelligence led C.I.A. analysts to conclude that Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. Some came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques. But there were many other sources as well.”

Morell is considered a strong candidate to succeed David Petreaus at the agency. His note to employees follows a letter last week signed by three senators, including John McCain and Dianne Feinstein.

They wrote that:

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 Usama 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 Usama Bin Laden. We have reviewed CIA records and know that this is incorrect.

Salon's David Sirota argued last week, however, that the agency most likely knew what was in the "Zero Dark Thirty" script because they cooperated with the filmmakers.

Freedom of Information Act requests prove that the Pentagon, CIA and Obama White House actively helped director Kathyrn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal from the very beginning of their production of “Zero Dark Thirty.” Based on the history of how the Military-Entertainment Complex operates, it is fair to assume those government institutions at least reviewed — and, perhaps sculpted — the storyline and screenplay of Bigelow’s film. We can presume this not just because that’s the general way those agencies interface with Hollywood, but also because the Pentagon specifically withdrew its assistance of Bigelow’s last film, “The Hurt Locker,” precisely because Bigelow changed that film’s script without military approval.

David Daley

David Daley is the author of "Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy" and a senior fellow at FairVote.

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Cia Michael Morell Movies Torture Zero Dark Thirty