Senate Intel Committee Probes Bin Laden Movie Torture Scenes


Directed by Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow and hailed by critics since its limited release last month, "Zero Dark Thirty" has also become a lightning rod for the ongoing debate over the role torture may have played in the ultimately successful hunt for bin Laden. The movie features multiple scenes in which American interrogators oversee or take part in harsh techniques including simulated drowning, violent beating, and force feeding of alleged al Qaeda operatives or associates.

In his book "The Finish," "Black Hawk Down" author Mark Bowden wrote that enhanced interrogation appeared to play a significant role in corroborating the identity of an al Qaeda courier who years later led U.S. officials to bin Laden. At least two detainees who underwent enhanced interrogation – one of them the former high-level al Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded a reported 183 times – acknowledged the existence and the nom de guerre of the courier but failed to provide any more complete or accurate information about him, Bowden wrote.

In an article written today in The Atlantic, Bowden argued that "Zero Dark Thirty" actually portrayed torture as relatively ineffective and said that he agrees with Morell's assessment that it was a factor, but not the key to finding bin Laden.

In their letters, the Senators said that based on the material they had been given by the CIA, no detainee reported the courier's full name or specific whereabouts and that the Agency actually learned the vital information that led to bin Laden "through means unrelated to the CIA detention and interrogation program."

READ MORE: Did Waterboarding Provide Tip That Led to Bin Laden?

As to whether Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal were ever given inappropriate access to information, Boal told ABC News' "Nightline" in an exclusive interview in November that he never received classified documents.

"I certainly did a lot of homework, but I never asked for classified material," Boal said. "To my knowledge I never received any."

Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog group, is involved in ongoing litigation with the government over exactly what information was shared with the filmmakers. The group previously obtained documents that its president said "provide more backing to the serious charge that the Obama administration played fast and loose with national security information to help Hollywood filmmakers."

ABC News' Josh Haskell contributed to this report.

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