Zero Dark Thirty has been met with tons of buzz since its limited release to theaters last week - critical acclaim for one, not to mention impressive box office numbers - but not all buzz has been positive. Just a week after the letter sent by senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein, and Carl Levin to Sony Pictures calling the film "grossly inaccurate," the Acting Director of the CIA, Michael Morell, has released his own press release to comment on the film.
"I would not normally comment on a Hollywood film, 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," he writes, "What I want you to know is that Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatization, not a realistic portrayal of the facts."
Similar to McCain, Feinstein, and Levin's letter, Morell stresses that the film's insinuation that torture of detainees in the former detention and interrogation program resulted in the information that led to the location of Osama Bin Laden is untrue. From the press release:
First, the hunt for Usama Bin Ladin was a decade-long effort that depended on the selfless commitment of hundreds of officers. The filmmakers attributed the actions of our entire Agency—and the broader Intelligence Community—to just a few individuals. This may make for more compelling entertainment, but it does not reflect the facts. The success of the May 1st 2011 operation was a team effort—and a very large team at that.
Second, the film creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding Bin Ladin. That impression is false. As we have said before, the truth is that multiple streams of intelligence led CIA analysts to conclude that Bin Ladin was hiding in Abbottabad. Some came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques, but there were many other sources as well. And, 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.
Third, 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.
Morell ends by stressing that everyone should remember the film is "not a documentary."
As the Washington Post revealed earlier this month, the film is inspired by the real-life CIA operative who was "key" in locating Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. As she's still undercover for the agency, she's barred from speaking to journalists and being identified publicly, but she did reportedly meet with filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal prior to production.