Skip to main content

Reposted from Sunday.

In this film, which is largely shot and depicted not as a dramatization, but as a documentary, it is shown that a key informant - the one who ultimately reveals the importance and the identity of the courier who led U.S. Forces to Bin Laden's hideaway - only divulges that information as a result of being tortured and a threat of torture.

But that didn't happen. Via Deadline Hollywood.

this afternoon acting director of the CIA Michael Morell issued a statement to employees of the agency that was posted on its website. “Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatization, not a realistic portrayal of the facts”, the statement says. “CIA interacted with the filmmakers through our Office of Public Affairs but, as is true with any entertainment project with which we interact, we do not control the final product.”

Morell says the movie’s attribution of the huge operation to a few individuals “may make for more compelling entertainment, but it does not reflect the facts.” And he says the film’s implication that “enhanced interrogation techniques” played a significant role in finding Bin Laden “is false.”

The sad thing is that despite what the CIA Director says - the impression that under certain circumstances torture is "justified, necessary and valuable" is re-enforced.  Acting Director Morell can say what he wants, but the fact is those that want to believe this LIE now have this movie to hang their hat on.  

People like Joe Scarborough.

Scarborough: (the film) presents a narrative that's going to make a lot of people in the mainstream media, the Democratic Party, the Administration uncomfortable and that is the truth that Barack Obama learned the first briefing that he got after he won the eletion.  And that is that the CIA program, whether you find it repugnant or not, action that was effective with KSM and others, were getting actionable intelligence that led to couriers that led eventually - years later - to the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Oh my crap, were back this that bullshit again?

Acting Director Morell isn't the first to say that torture had nothing to do with finding Bin Laden - General Michael Hayden has said the exact same thing.

Hayden at 4:20:

We went back to [KSM] and he and another detainee were so demonstrative - atypically - demonstrative in rejecting knowledge of this individual that, that in itself turned into lead information. If he had not been largely cooperating with us, this would not have been anomalous behavior.
In other words KSM and others - after they had been tortured and were allegedly "compliant"-  LIED to them about the courier, claimiing they didn't know him and he was unimportant.  Hayden claims that their denial was so odd, so unexpected, that because they said nothing - they knew they had something.

Ok, so how did they find Bin Laden if the guys they tortured didn't say anything about the key person that could - and did - lead us to him?

They did it the hard way... they put people in the field. Via the New York Times.

The C.I.A actually obtained the courier’s name by placing “more agents in the field” in 2005 the National Security Agency began “intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages between the [courier's] family and anyone inside Pakistan. From there they got his full name.”
The CIA didn't get the name through interrogations, the NSA got the name with electronic surveillance.  That's why it took Years to finally figure it all out - Nobody gave up the key information willingly.

Let's also recall they didn't know for sure, they didn't have confirmation that Bin Laden was actually in the courier's home - until they got there and found him.

This point is made crystal clear by FBI Interrogator Ali Soufan.

Soufan: Everything I've heard about the supposed successes of the 'enhanced interrogation' program  I can tell you - I was there.
Soufan goes on to point out that they he was the one who gained the information that led from Abu Zubaydah to both KSM and Jose Padilla and this happened months before harsh techniques were used.  He was getting good and actionable intelligence - what he wasn't getting was "How was Saddam Linked to 9-11" and it was IMO the desperate need to get that information - which didn't exist - that harsh techniques were used at the Black Sites and ultimately on Ibn Sheik al Libi who falsely claimed after he'd been buried alive that Saddam had "trained the 9-11 hijackers."

Except he didn't.

Even Donald Rumsfeld has said that Waterboarding Was Not a Factor in finding Bin Laden.

“The United States Department of Defense did not do waterboarding for interrogation purposes to anyone. It is true that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches at Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instance. But it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.
Of course Rumsfeld can say DOD didn't use harsh techniques because technically it was CIA Contractors not persons directly on the CIA payroll or Department of Defenses (although he clearly ignores Abu Ghraib - clinging still to the bogus claim that that particularly bit of sadism wasn't really part of their intelligence operation, besides the fact that everything done to those prisoners was at the direction of Army Intelligence) but his basic point - that Waterboarding didn't reveal the location of Bin Laden is exactly what Hayden said. It didn't.

And the thing is the stars of Zero Dark Thirty agree with that too.

Jessica Chastain/Maya: I find it absolutely absurd. I think the torture is very honest, and also the information that Maya gains does not come under duress - it comes over humus and tubuli. Nothing positive came out of the torture scenes. No success came from (those) interrogations.
Ok, but that's not how Frank Bruni at NYT sees it.
But the torture sequence immediately follows a bone-chilling, audio-only prologue of the voices of terrified Americans trapped in the towering inferno of the World Trade Center. It’s set up as payback.

And by the movie’s account, it produces information vital to the pursuit of the world’s most wanted man. No waterboarding, no Bin Laden: that’s what “Zero Dark Thirty” appears to suggest.

So what's the truth here? Are they just telling it "like it was" without any particular agenda or political perspective or do they, as Scarborough suggests, give a big fat sloppy wet kiss of "thanks" to the Contracted CIA interrogators who used waterboarding, sleep deprivation and hypothermia in an attempt to get information on Saddam - rather than Bin Laden - that actually didn't exist?

The problem as I see it is this: Immediately after the 9-11 scene they go into the capture of a high value target and his interrogation which starts as harsh and torturous and then later because more gentle, polite and respectful.  As Jessica points out the film doesn't depict any useful information being gained during the torture, only afterward when they're treating the detainee with some decency - so she doesn't see the correlation even when the interrogator gets the information immediately after saying "so are you going to talk or am I going to string you up again?"

The thing is, that's simply not how it happened. It makes sense dramatically but the truth - as Ali Soufan notes above - is that most of the actionable information was gained by him before harsh techniques were used.  If the film had depicted that they would have had a logical plot problem - why go to this extreme when with Zubaydah when he's already co-operating and providing information that led us to KSM and Padilla?

It doesn't make sense.

Unless you realize, as I mention above, that none of these detainees were telling Dick Cheney and the Neo-Cons what they wanted to hear. "How was Saddam involved in 9-11?".  This is the question Cheney put to Charles Duelfer - "Why don't you try waterboarding?" to get information from the captured head of Iraqi intelligence even though he was cooperating already.

Since "Zero Dark Thirty" isn't intended to be "political" it ignores this reality.  That the torture that did happen was entirely political, it was not about 9-11, it was all about he Bush Administration justifying it's impending attack on Iraq. It was about linking Iraq and Saddam to 9-11, period.


I originally started writing this because of this discussion on Up with Chris Hayes, here are the relevent sections from that show on this.

Chris' First Segment on Zero Dark Thirty

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Hayes: I was horrified by the film.  I think it is objectively pro-torture. I had a strong moral revulsion to the film
Segment 2 From "Up" which includes commentary from James Clemente one of the FBI Interrogators from Gitmo.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Clemente: The film unfortunately at least gives the impression, and it's a distorted impression it's a strong impression that were it not for the torture that rapport based techniques would not have worked.  But in fact all the torture did was delay [the ability to get information.]
Segment 3

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Originally posted to Vyan on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 09:45 AM PST.

Also republished by Group W: Resisting War.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site