Sens. Dianne Feinstein. D-Calif., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich.,–the trio who formally complained to Sony Pictures about the bin Laden manhunt film “Zero Dark Thirty” being “grossly inaccurate and misleading” last month–are now formally investigating whether the CIA improperly cooperated with the film’s producers.
The senators have sent two letters to Acting CIA Director Mike Morrell asking exactly what information the agency provided to the filmmakers. At issue is the opening scene where a detainee appears to give information pertaining to bin Laden’s whereabouts while being subjected to waterboarding, an enhanced interrogation technique that many qualify as torture. The senators maintained that “the role of torture in the hunt for… bin Laden is not based on the facts, but rather part of the film’s fictional narrative” in a letter dated Dec. 19. Yet the movie opens by telling the audience it is based on first-hand accounts of actual events.
According to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program, the CIA did not first learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts from a detainee who had undergone coercive interrogation techniques, rather, the detainee who provided the most accurate information did so beforehand.
In response to senators’ first letter, Morrell told CIA employees in a letter that “Some [intelligence related to bin Laden’s location] came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques, but there were many other sources as well.” The senators are now asking for exactly what information the CIA is referring to, and whether it was obtained before, during, or after enhanced interrogation was used.
Both the CIA and the Pentagon have acknowledged giving the filmmakers unclassified briefings about the lead character, a female CIA agent obsessed with tracking down bin Laden. Last month, Pentagon spokesman George Little maintained that top intelligence official Michael Vicker- a possible candidate to be the next CIA director–only shared unclassified information. The Pentagon’s Inspector General is leading an investigation.