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Senate panel to probe whether CIA misled filmmakers about use of torture in search for bin Laden

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By The Los Angeles Times
Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 9:28 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — After complaining for weeks that the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” erroneously implies that torture yielded key information in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee want to know whether CIA personnel deliberately misled the filmmakers on that point.

The committee, headed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., will examine documents to ascertain the extent to which CIA officers provided information that led to the portrayal of harsh interrogation practices in the film, a senior committee staffer said on Thursday.

Democrats on the committee believe the Sony Pictures film wrongly suggests that coercive interrogation was instrumental in tracking down the al-Qaida leader, and they believe the filmmakers got that misimpression from CIA officials, the staffer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

News of the inquiry occurs two weeks after acting CIA chief Michael Morell sought to distance his organization from the film, which is increasingly being seized on by lawmakers of both parties and others to further long-standing agendas.

“What I want you to know is that ‘Zero Dark Thirty' is a dramatization, not a realistic portrayal of the facts,” Morell wrote in a letter to agency staff on Dec. 21. He acknowledged the CIA had cooperated with director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal but said the agency does “not control the final product.”

Morell added that “the film creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding bin Laden. That impression is false.”

It remained unclear what consequences, if any, CIA officials could suffer from the Senate inquiry. Morell became acting CIA director after David Petraeus resigned in November, and President Obama reportedly is considering naming Morell as the next CIA director.

The post requires Senate confirmation after a hearing before the Intelligence Committee. If Democrats are led to believe Morell was involved in offering what they believe is a bogus narrative on interrogations and bin Laden, it could hurt his chances.

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