US senators attack bin Laden film
The film about the manhunt for Osama bin Laden is misleading and "grossly inaccurate", suggesting that torture produced the tip that led the US military to the terrorist leader, US senators said.
Three top senators have voiced their anger in a letter to the head of Sony Pictures Entertainment over the film Zero Dark Thirty.
The film-makers dispute that interpretation and encourage people to see the movie, already considered a top Oscar contender, before characterising it.
Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, say Sony and its president and chief executive Michael Lynton had an obligation to alter the film and make clear that torture in the hunt for al Qaida mastermind bin Laden was fiction and not based on fact. "We are fans of many of your movies, and we understand the special role that movies play in our lives, but the fundamental problem is that people who see Zero Dark Thirty will believe that the events it portrays are facts," the senators wrote. "The film therefore has the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner."
Former Republican presidential candidate and Vietnam war hero Mr McCain has insisted that the waterboarding of al Qaida's number three, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, did not provide information that led to bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.
Last year Mr McCain asked then-CIA director Leon Panetta for the facts and he said the hunt for bin Laden did not begin with fresh information from Mohammed. In fact, the name of bin Laden's courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, came from a detainee held in another country.
Ms Feinstein, who heads the intelligence committee, backed Mr McCain's assessment that waterboarding of Mohammed did not produce the tip that led to bin Laden.
In their letter to Sony, the senators said the "use of torture in the fight against terrorism did severe damage to America's values and standing that cannot be justified or expunged. It remains a stain on our national conscience. We cannot afford to go back to these dark times, and with the release of Zero Dark Thirty, the film-makers and your production studio are perpetuating the myth that torture is effective. You have a social and moral obligation to get the facts right."
Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal said in a statement from Sony that they depicted "a variety of controversial practices and intelligence methods that were used in the name of finding bin Laden". Bigelow and Boal, who won Oscars for The Hurt Locker, said the new film showed that no single method was responsible in the successful manhunt for bin Laden and no single scene in isolation captured the total effort the movie dramatised.
Zero Dark Thirty is opening in New York and Los Angeles this week and opens across the country next month.