Senators probing CIA interaction with ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ filmmakers

“The CIA cannot be held accountable for how the agency and its activities are portrayed in film, but we are nonetheless concerned, given the CIA’s cooperation with the filmmakers and the narrative’s consistency with past public misstatements by former senior CIA officials, that the filmmakers could have been misled by information they were provided by the CIA,” the senators wrote.


The senators asked Morell to send Feinstein’s Senate Intelligence Committee “all information and documents provided to the filmmakers by CIA officials.” Levin and McCain are ex-officio members of the panel as top Democrat and Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

The three senators wrote a letter to Sony CEO Michael Lynton last month that said the movie was “dangerous” for suggesting to the public that the use of torture led to information that tracked down bin Laden’s courier, the key break in finding his Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound.

They point to a 6,000-page report adopted last month by the Intelligence Committee that reviewed the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” under the George W. Bush administration.

While the report remains classified while it is reviewed by the Obama administration, Feinstein, McCain and Levin say that enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding used on detainees did not yield intelligence to help track down bin Laden.

Some Republicans, including former CIA officials in the Bush administration, say that intelligence was in fact yielded from enhanced interrogation. Six Republicans voted against adopting the Intelligence panel report.

The film, which has already attracted Oscar buzz, opens in theaters nationwide next week.

There have already been concerns raised in Congress that Bigelow and Boal were given improper access to CIA officials before the movie came out. The conservative group Judicial Watch obtained documents and emails of conversations between officials and the filmmakers last year.

There were reports last month that the Defense Department Inspector General had referred to the Justice Department an investigation into Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers over access given to the filmmakers.

The senators note in their letter to Morell that he previously wrote to tell the Intelligence panel “that the CIA engaged with the filmmakers ‘to ensure an appropriate portrayal of the agency’s mission as well as the dedication of the men and women of the CIA who played a key part in the success of that mission.’ ”

In their second letter, the lawmakers question a memo Morell wrote to CIA employees last month that said there were multiple streams of intelligence that led analysts to bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound. He wrote that “some came from detainees subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques, but there were many other sources as well."

The senators asked Morell to provide specific examples of intelligence from the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, and whether the information was obtained prior to, during or after the use of the interrogation methods.