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Osama film torture scenes ‘misleading’

Washington, Dec. 20: In an unusual Congressional critique of Hollywood moviemaking, three US senators yesterday lambasted Zero Dark Thirty, the new fictionalised film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, calling it “grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location” of the terrorist leader.

In a letter to Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment, the senators — Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California; Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan; and John McCain, Republican of Arizona — weighed in on a public debate over how the film portrays the CIA’s use of brutal interrogations against Qaida suspects.

Feinstein leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose Democratic staff members just completed a highly critical 6,000-page study of the CIA detention and interrogation programme. The report remains classified, but Feinstein has said it showed that information derived from waterboarding and other brutal techniques did not play a significant role in locating Osama, who was killed in a raid by Navy SEALs in May 2011.

Some human rights advocates have described the film as ambiguous on the question of whether torture was useful, while others believe it implies that torture produced some early clues.

The senators take the latter view and say the movie is “factually inaccurate” and “has the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner”. Their letter asks Sony Pictures to “consider correcting the impression that the CIA’s use of coercive interrogation techniques led to the operation” against Osama, but they do not explain exactly how that could be done.

The director of Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow, and its writer, Mark Boal, have said that to leave torture scenes out would have meant whitewashing history and that the film made clear that the most important break in the Osama hunt did not come from a coercive interrogation.

 
 
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