Zero Dark Thirty, the movie about the manhunt to either kill or capture Osama Bin Laden, just found a postscript in records that allege the CIA extensively aided the production. The film’s narrative presented a dramatic account of one CIA analyst’s mission, which was brought to fruition by U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011. Vice magazine writers Jason Leopold and Ky Henderson paint a revealing portrait of how screenwriter Mark Boal and director Katherine Bigelow were allegedly granted questionable access to classified resources on numerous occasions.
For starters, Boal was permitted to attend an awards ceremony for the team that hunted Bin Laden. CIA documents point out how Boal should not have been granted such access, as the speeches were “Top Secret” classified material. In addition, the Vice report details how the CIA granted Bigelow and Boal access to CIA operatives who worked in the hunt for Bin Laden. Gifts — including jewelry, tequila, and (really) grilled cheese sandwiches — were also allegedly exchanged as part of the “script-vetting” process. Cooperation between Hollywood and the CIA is not unheard of in the film industry, but Henderson and Leopold drop this key paragraph:
“The inspector general identified several potential criminal violations of federal law — Panetta’s unauthorized disclosure of classified information to Boal, and a separate federal violation of transmitting or losing of defense information. Additionally, the inspector general’s audit staff identified as a potential violation of federal criminal law the bribery of public officials and witnesses by Bigelow and Boal. The cases were referred back to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, but Justice declined to prosecute in favor of ‘administrative action’ by the CIA. The CIA did not take any action.”
Deadline further reports that neither Bigelow nor Boal have responded to requests for comment. All along, critics have questioned the movie’s accuracy, but these new records support the theory that something could be fishy.
This information is interesting in terms of narrative shaping — especially in light of an earlier investigative report from Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, who claimed Osama Bin Laden wasn’t “in hiding” in the conventional sense. Hersh’s report said Bin Laden was placed on house arrest by Pakistani security services (the ISI), who tipped off the United States. This allegation, if true, fudges the entire narrative of Bin Laden’s discovery through years of painstaking intelligence work. Either way, Bin Laden’s fate was the same, but the “discovery” angle was the preferred narrative of Zero Dark Thirty.