OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Senators tee off on new bin Laden film

And on the issues of al Qaeda, counterterrorism and U.S. national security, it can become dangerous — or so say three top defense and intelligence lawmakers. 

Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate panel punts Mueller protection bill to next week Steyer endorses de León in bid to unseat Feinstein Amid struggle for votes, GOP plows ahead with Cabinet picks MORE (D-Calif.), Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinSen. Gillibrand, eyeing 2020 bid, rankles some Democrats The Hill's 12:30 Report Congress needs bipartisanship to fully investigate Russian influence MORE (D-Mich.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Senate committee sets Monday vote even as Pompeo appears to lack support Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea MORE (R-Ariz.) argue the depictions of waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation" tactics portrayed in the upcoming film "Zero Dark Thirty" — and the implication that those tactics led to pinpointing Osama bin Laden's Pakistani hideout — are dangerous. 

The film, which has already been named the film of the year by the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, opens with an extended waterboarding scene.

In a letter to the president and CEO of Sony Pictures, the company distributing the film, the lawmakers lambasted the studio chiefs for allowing such a connection to make it into the film. 

"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," the letter, sent on Wednesday, states. 

"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 lawmakers wrote. 

For her part, Feinstein said the movie was "terrible," in terms of correlating torture techniques to locating bin Laden's Abbottabad compound. “It is a combination of fact, fiction and Hollywood in a very dangerous combination," she said. 

McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said Tuesday that he was “sickened” by the film when he saw it, according to The Associated Press, saying the filmmakers fell hook, line and sinker for the torture storyline.

Director Kathryn Bigelow contends that the film does not try to weigh in on the policy debate over torture, saying in an interview this week that it was “preposterous” to claim her film represented an endorsement of torture.

“The point was to immerse the audience in this landscape, not to pretend to debate policy,” Bigelow said. “Was it difficult to shoot? Yes. Do I wish [torture] was not part of that history? Yes, but it was.”

Complaints about the torture scenes aren’t the only issue lawmakers have raised about the film by Oscar winners Bigelow and Mark Boal, the creative forces behind the 2010 Academy Award winner “The Hurt Locker.” ...

... Guilty until proven innocent: Lawmakers on Capitol Hill should reserve judgment on allegations of DOD leaks of classified information on the Osama bin Laden raid until Pentagon officials have completed their inquiry, says one top House Dem. 

"They are looking into what happened and they will figure it out," regarding the Pentagon inquiry into Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers and his cooperation with the makers of the upcoming film "Zero Dark Thirty," Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Trump praises Pompeo meeting with Kim | White House, Mattis deny reported rift over Syria strikes | Southwest pilot is Navy vet | Pentagon reform bill hits snag Top Dem expresses 'serious concerns' about plan to cut B from Pentagon agencies Rethinking how we handle development finance MORE (D-Wash.) told The Hill on Wednesday. 

"The reports we have seen in the press simply do not match the facts," Smith added. 

Vickers, a former Army Special Forces and CIA operations officer, is rumored to be on the White House's shortlist to replace former agency Director David Petraeus, who stepped down as CIA chief in November. 

Republicans have repeatedly hammered the Obama administration for leaking classified information on everything from cyber warfare operations in Iran to drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in an attempt to bolster the White House's national-security bona fides. 

The most recent inquiry by the Pentagon Inspector General's office is focused on whether Vickers revealed the name of a Special Operations officer who participated in the planning of the bin Laden raid during an interview with the filmmakers.

Recent news reports state that DOD referred the issue to investigators at the Department of Justice. But Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement issued Tuesday evening that the press reports on Vickers were “unwarranted, unfounded and unfair.”

Rampant speculation as to whether Vickers did disclose classified information regarding the bin Laden raid "has been completely off base and irresponsible" while the Pentagon's inquiry is still ongoing, Smith said. 

McKeon won’t say if he supports BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerSome doubt McCarthy or Scalise will ever lead House GOP Lobbying World McCarthy courts conservatives in Speaker's bid MORE plan: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) won’t say if he’s going to support House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerSome doubt McCarthy or Scalise will ever lead House GOP Lobbying World McCarthy courts conservatives in Speaker's bid MORE’s (R-Ohio) “Plan B,” which would not stop sequestration cuts from taking effect Jan. 1.

McKeon declined to comment when asked by The Hill on Wednesday whether he would vote for the plan, which would allow taxes to rise on income over $1 million.

Boehner offered the proposal Tuesday as a “Plan B,” in case fiscal-cliff negotiations don’t yield a deal. He says there will be a vote Thursday on the measure.

But the proposal did not do anything to stop the impending sequestration cuts that take effect Jan. 2, which hawks like McKeon have warned for months would devastate the military and defense industry.

That put lawmakers like McKeon in a tough spot. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination Senate panel moving ahead with Mueller bill despite McConnell opposition Overnight Defense: Lawmakers worry over Syria strategy | Trump's base critical of strikes | Flake undecided on Pompeo | Coast Guard plans to keep allowing transgender members | GOP chair wants to cut B from Pentagon agencies MORE (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said to let sequestration happen when asked about his reaction to Boehner’s plan, arguing that stopping the cuts isn’t worth a bad deal on entitlement reform and taxes.

But it appears that hawks won’t have to vote on a bill that would allow sequestration, as a House leadership aide said Wednesday evening that there will be a separate vote on a sequester replacement bill Thursday.

NDAA winners and losers: There were a host of reactions to the conference report on the defense authorization bill Wednesday, one day after House and Senate lawmakers agreed to the sweeping $633 billion measure.

The reaction spanned everything from the usual suspects like the National Guard Association and Aerospace Industries Association to groups like the Secular Coalition for America.

The varied response is due to the bill tackling everything from social issues to weapons programs to end-strength numbers, with plenty in between.

The Guard Association called the bill a “tough compromise,” after proposed cuts to the Air National Guard were rolled back by Congress to some degree — but some aircraft retirements were still included that were not part of the House and Senate bills.

The AIA, which has focused its efforts this year to fight against sequestration, applauded the bill for “long-awaited congressional action” to ease restrictions on commercial satellite exports.

As for the Secular Coalition, it distributed a release headlined “Atheists oppose new version of Defense Authorization Act.” The group was opposed to a “conscience” provision for military chaplains that was included in the House version of the bill and kept in modified form in the conference report.

In Case You Missed It: 

--DOD seeks death penalty against Afghan shooter

--Pentagon pushes back on bin Laden leak allegations 

--Jewish Dems split on Hagel for DOD chief 

--Top State Department officials quit over Benghazi 

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