Published December 20, 2012
Three U.S. senators are slamming the makers of the Oscar-contending movie "Zero Dark Thirty," saying its suggestion that "torture" produced the tip that led U.S. operatives to Usama bin Laden is "grossly inaccurate and misleading."
The members of the Senate Intelligence committee -- Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain -- fired off a letter Wednesday to the head of Sony Pictures Entertainment. They urged the studio to "consider correcting the impression that the CIA's use of coercive interrogation techniques led to the operation against Usama Bin Laden."
The filmmakers challenge the claim and are urging people to "see the film before characterizing it."
"We depicted a variety of controversial practices and intelligence methods that were used in the name of finding bin Laden," Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal said in a statement. "The film shows that no single method was necessarily responsible for solving the manhunt, nor can any single scene taken in isolation fairly capture the totality of efforts the film dramatizes."
The filmmakers credited the "hard work and dedication" of the intelligence community in finding bin Laden.
But the senators claimed to be left with the impression that "torture" of detainees led to the information on the courier who eventually led U.S. operatives to the bin Laden compound in Pakistan.
"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," they wrote. "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 Usama Bin Laden is not based on the facts, but rather part of the film's fictional narrative."
McCain has insisted that the waterboarding of Al Qaeda's No. 3 leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, did not provide information that led to bin Laden's compound.
Last year, McCain asked then-CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he said the hunt for bin Laden did not begin with fresh information from Mohammed. In fact, the name of bin Laden's courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, came from a detainee held in another country.
Others have defended the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, saying they did yield vital information in the course of the War on Terror.
Feinstein, who heads the Intelligence committee, backed up McCain's assessment that waterboarding of Mohammed did not produce the tip that led to bin Laden.
McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years enduring brutal treatment by his North Vietnamese captors during the Vietnam War, said he watched the movie Monday night after receiving a copy.
"Zero Dark Thirty" is opening in New York and Los Angeles this week. It opens across the country next month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.