Published January 21, 2013
Park City, Utah – Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar-nominated "Zero Dark Thirty" about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden has been steeped in controversy over its portrayal of CIA agents waterboarding prisoners.
Bigelow has stood by her depictions, but the CIA officers who devoted their careers to finding the Al Qaeda leader, featured in the documentary "Manhunt," beg to differ.
"The interrogation stuff was inaccurate, that's not the way," Marty Martin, who served as a member of the Senior Intelligence Service in the Middle East, told FOX411's Pop Tarts column. CIA analyst Cindy Storer added that the dramatized torture scenes are "potential for people to misunderstand how the national security apparatus works."
"If this is what people take away from the movie, other than just entertainment, that is problematic," she said. "If they see 'Manhunt,' then they will see the contrast."
"Manhunt" argues that more "traditional" interrogation techniques have been proven to be the most effective.
The intelligence officials also expressed disappointment over the hit film's depiction of Jennifer Matthews - the agent who was killed in Pakistan by a suicide bomber after allowing him to enter the U.S. base and bypass the standard security checkpoints.
"Jennifer was absolutely not portrayed accurately, the way it put Maya (Jessica Chastain's character) in a more superior position," he continued. "That was inaccurate, as someone who really knew Jennifer."
Former CIA analyst designated to terrorist-based investigations, Nada Bakos, concurred.
"It is annoying. A lot of the first articles that came out really trashed Jennifer and most of those people don't know her and don't know what happened," she said. "And from my perspective, Maya is a compilation of a variety of women. Cindy, myself, and a variety of others who worked there. It doesn't take one person to be able to unravel that thread throughout the ten years. But I thought the SEAL scenes (in 'Zero') were fantastic."
"Manhunt" director Greg Barker was not as critical of "Zero Dark Thirty."
"I respect Kathryn Bigelow and think she is a great filmmaker," he said. "But I would rather talk about my film and let her talk about hers."
On that note, Barker's latest work - which unfolds like a real-life spy thriller - is similar to Bigelow's in that it focuses on women as the driving force behind the hunt for and eventual killing of bin Laden.
The search began with a team of mostly female CIA analysts, including the likes of Storer and Bakos, known in intelligence circles as "The Sisterhood."
"If you see 'Zero Dark Thirty' you see a snapshot," Martin told us. "This is a larger perspective, it shows the people that spent most of their adult lives on this."
This group of women were trying to take down bin Laden before most of us even knew his name, putting together scraps of intelligence which led them to uncover a secret terrorist organization, now known as Al Qaeda.
They claim they were condemned for wasting "too much time" on bin Laden, and those working specifically in the small Al Quada-tracking division, which was established in the mid-90's under the code name "Alec Station" were told not to be so “emotional” or “passionate” about their work. But according to Barker, this group had tabs on bin Laden's locations long before planes flew into the World Trade Center.
"They knew where he was at various times, but they never had the authority from the top to do anything. Nobody ever imagined he would do something like that," he said. "I think (audiences) will be really surprised about how long a small group of people in the CIA were focused on bin Laden, since the early 90s. There is a continuity between the final manhunt and the original people who were tracking him back then. It is the same group of people."
"Manhunt" also features never before seen or heard testimony and recollections from the CIA officers who worked to destroy bin Laden and his terrorist organization, in addition to rarely seen footage of al-Qaeda training and propaganda videos, including digital suicide notes from terrorists who had dedicated their lives to jihad.
CIA agents Bakos, Stoner and Martin all received standing ovations at the conclusion of the Park City premiere on Sunday, but insisted that "Manhunt" was by no means an attempt by them to feel released from responsibility over having not prevented the September 11 attacks.
"For me, it is not about vindication," Storer told the sold-out theater after the screening. "But I hope it changes the way people treat the intelligence community."
And while the CIA operatives were cleared by the agency and the White House to discuss the raid for the documentary, the filmmaker assured us that while the government was "aware of the project, they did not cooperate in any meaningful way."
"Maybe they co-operated on other projects a little too much," Barker added with a sly smile.
"Manhunt" is slated to debut on HBO in May.