Senators to Investigate Contact Between CIA, 'Zero Dark Thirty' Filmmakers

Panel will examine whether agency provided secret material

Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal in Hollywood, California on February 27th, 2011.
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A Senate panel is examining the correspondences between CIA officials and the makers of the new Osama bin Laden manhunt film Zero Dark Thirty, Reuters reports. The investigation will specifically look into whether the CIA gave director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal "inappropriate" access to secret material, and also whether members of the spy agency were responsible for the portrayal of brutal interrogation techniques and the implication that they were effective.

The film has already found itself in hot water after several senators called Zero Dark Thirty's torture scenes "grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of bin Laden. Sony released a response from Boal and Bigelow that said the movie showed "a variety of controversial practices and intelligence methods" and "that no single method was necessarily responsible for solving the manhunt."

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Though the movie is a dramatized account of the hunt for the Al Qaeda leader, documents obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch showed that Boal and Bigelow were in touch with top CIA and Pentagon officials, including Michael Morrell, the CIA's current acting chief (he was deputy director at the time) and Michael Vickers, the Pentagon's current intelligence chief.

Many of the documents were heavily redacted, though one Pentagon e-mail exchange with senior White House national security aide Ben Rhodes revealed that CIA officials had briefed Boal "with the full knowledge and full approval/support" of Leon Panetta, who served as CIA director, then Secretary of Defense, while the film was being made. 

In response to the initial letter from Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and John McCain (R-Arizona) regarding the depiction of torture in Zero Dark Thirty, the CIA released a statement by Morell who said the film was a "dramatization, not a realistic portrayal of the facts," and that while the CIA had "interacted" with Boal and Bigellow the agency didn't "control the final product."