Earlier this week, Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein, and Carl Levin sent a letter to Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton criticizing Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty’s depiction of torture in the hunt for Osama bin Laden as “grossly inaccurate.” Now, as people begin to seriously consider what to see with their families (or after Chinese food with friends) over Christmas, acting CIA director Michael Morell has come out against the movie. “I would not normally comment on a Hollywood film,” wrote Morell in a Friday night press release. “But I think it important to put Zero Dark Thirty, which deals with one of the most significant achievements in our history, into some context.”
Like McCain, Feinstein, and Levin, Morell takes issue with “the strong impression” Zero Dark Thirty gives that “the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding bin Laden. That impression is false.” Instead, he says, “multiple streams of intelligence” led to to the discovery of bin Laden’s hiding place, and only some of those were “detainees subjected to enhanced techniques.” And then there’s this:
Importantly, whether enhanced interrogation techniques were the only timely and effective way to obtain information from those detainees, as the film suggests, is a matter of debate that cannot and never will be definitively resolved.
Morell also complained that the movie credits “just a few individuals” with locating bin Laden, when the operation was, in fact, “a very large” team effort. And finally, he writes that “the film takes considerable liberties in its depiction of CIA personnel and their actions, including some who died while serving our country. We cannot allow a Hollywood film to cloud our memory of them.” He concludes by reminding everyone that Zero Dark Thirty “is not a documentary,” which is something audiences can probably figure out based on Jessica Chastain’s presence on the screen.