MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If "Zero Dark Thirty" prima facie wasn't enough of a promotional film for torture, the CIA and America's dirty wars, Gawker and Firedoglake both revealed newly released classified memos that detail the cooperative relationship between "Zero Dark Thirty's" scriptwriter and the CIA.
Not that the CIA was ever, it appears, anything but a booster of the film, as Gawker reports:
The document reveals the extent to which CIA access was a quid pro quo arrangement, in which Boal [who wrote the film] made substantive changes to his script to appease them. "As an agency, we've been pretty forward-leaning with Boal," wrote a CIA flack to her peers in documents released last year. "He's agreed to share scripts and details about the movie with us so we're absolutely comfortable with what he will be showing."
Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglike offers formerly classified documents that prove that the CIA -- and the spook community in general -- was ecstatic about "Zero Dark Thirty":
It had already been revealed that the CIA saw the film as a great opportunity for the agency. Judicial Watch obtained documents showing an e-mail exchange on June 7, 2011, where “CIA spokesperson Marie E. Harf openly discussed providing preferential treatment to the Boal/Bigelow project over others related to the bin Laden killing.” He wrote, “I know we don’t pick favorites but it makes sense to get behind a winning horse…Mark and Kathryn’s movie is going to be the first and the biggest. It’s got the most money behind it, and two Oscar winners on board.”
On July 20, 2011, in an e-mail, Boal thanked then-CIA Director of Public Affairs George Little for “pulling for him” inside the agency. It made “all the difference.” Little responded, “…I can’t tell you how excited we all are (at DOD and CIA) about the project…PS – I want you to know how good I’ve been not mentioning the premiere tickets. :) ”
“Boal has been working with us and with the CIA (via George Little) for initial context briefings,” another e-mail sent on June 15, 2011, read. “At DoD this has been provided by Mike Vickers, and at CIA by relevant officials with the full knowledge and full approval/support of Director Panetta.”
Thus, it would seem film director Alex Gibney was correct when he critiqued the film for its portrayal of torture and wrote, “Boal and Bigelow were seduced by their sources.”
It's apparent from the memos that the CIA successfully pushed to sanitize key moments in the film so that torture was minimized while maximizing the alleged positive results from "harsh interrogation." This in itself is perhaps the most contentious assumption that "Zero Dark Thirty" reinforces.
As Gosztola points out,
As highlighted by the New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer, a CIA interrogator in the movie claims “everyone breaks in the end.” He adds, “It’s biology.” She pointed out “many prisoners have been tortured to death without ever revealing secrets.” In another scene, “an elderly detainee” said he wanted to cooperate because he didn’t want to be tortured again.” It implied “brutalization brings breakthroughs.”
But the CIA also cleansed the visual impact of what really went on by having the script remove images that might be disturbing to the audience, claiming that even the threatening detainees of with dogs didn't occur, which is disproved by an abundance of photos and published accounts. "Another interrogation scene," a CIA memo notes "involved the use of a dog to which we raised an objection that such tactics would not be used by the Agency. Boal [the screenwriter] confirmed in January that the use of dogs was taken out of the screenplay."
Gawker got a response from Boal which reads: "We honored certain requests to keep operational details and the identity of the participants confidential. But as with any publication or work of art, the final decisions as to the content were made by the filmmakers." Yes, but Boal appears to have honored most of the CIA "suggestions," so his response to Gawker is tommyrot. Besides, the CIA requests, as revealed in the memo, were not designed to keep any details confidential; they were purely to improve the image of the CIA and make torture appear to be acceptable.
Those who enjoyed "Zero Dark Thirty" because of its direction, acting and as a thriller don't need to feel guilty. But it is an obligation to realize that entertainment in the United States now can only be pried loose from the truth with a crow bar. The Pentagon has a long history of working closely with the film and television industry to produce movies favorable to our defense posture.
The CIA is now fully mastering the same skill set of propaganda through the power of film.