'Zero Dark Thirty', a Hollywood movie on the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, is just a dramatisation and not a realistic portrayal of the facts, America's spy chief has said in a rare comment.
"Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatisation, not a realistic portrayal of the facts," CIA Acting Director Michael Morell said in a message to his employees.
"I would not normally comment on a Hollywood film, but I think it (is) important to put Zero Dark Thirty, which deals with one of the most significant achievements in our history, into some context," he wrote.
He said the hunt for Osama 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 1, 2011 operation was a team effort — and a very large team at that," he said.
High lighting a few aspects that underscore the extent to which the film departs from reality, Morrell said the film creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of its former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding Osama.
"That impression is false. The truth is that multiple streams of intelligence led CIA analysts to conclude that Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad (Pakistan)," he said.
"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," he said.
Morrell said the film takes considerable liberties in its depiction of CIA personnel and their actions, including some who died while serving the country. "We cannot allow a Hollywood film to cloud our memory of them," he said.
"Remember that Zero Dark Thirty is not a documentary. What you should also remember is that the bin Laden operation was a landmark achievement by our country, by our military, by our Intelligence Community, and by our Agency."
Early this week in a letter to Sony Pictures, top Senators including Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein described the movie as "grossly inaccurate and misleading", particularly graphic scenes of CIA officers torturing detainees that "credits these detainees with providing critical lead information" on the courier that led to the bin Laden compound.
"Zero Dark Thirty is factually inaccurate, and we believe that 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," they wrote.