Zero Dark Thirty producers tempted CIA agents with jewellery and tequilaDocuments show the exceptionally close level of cooperation between the intelligence services and producers of the Oscar-winning film A cache of newly released CIA documents has illustrated just how closely US intelligence officials worked with the makers of Zero Dark Thirty – the film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden – at a time when the agency was under fire for its use of “enhanced interrogation”. Kathryn Bigelow, the director, and Mark Boal, the writer, met with CIA agents – offering and top-quality tequila and inviting them to dinners – in preparation for the filming. One agent was offered a pair of pearl earrings, though a CIA appraiser later said they were painted and worth no more than £130. The complex relationship between the CIA and the filmmakers is revealed in a March 2014 report, commissioned by the CIA Inspector General, and from a September 2013 internal investigation into whether officers handed over classified information. The two reports were obtained through a Freedom of Information Request from Vice News. The documents show how less than three weeks after bin Laden was killed, Mr Boal met with CIA officials to discuss the film. In order to assist him in his research and in “capturing the atmospherics,” Mr Boal was invited to attend the CIA’s classified bin Laden awards ceremony “held inside a large tent” outside the main entrance of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It was attended by about 1,300 people, and the reports found that a speech by Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, should have not been heard by anyone outside the intelligence community. Mark Zaid, a Washington, DC-based lawyer who has represented intelligence community employees in cases involving the leaking of classified information, told VICE News that the circumstances surrounding Mr Panetta’s “apparent inadvertent disclosure of classified information to a Hollywood film producer was a comedy of errors and failure of co-ordination within CIA.” He added: “The real lesson to be learned from this episode is that CIA does what it wants with classified information if it serves its interests and punishes only those who run afoul of its policies or management.” Since the disclosures to Bigelow and Boal and the inspector general’s probes, the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs developed a new written policy “to create a single point of reference that will govern future interactions with the entertainment industry.” On the day the film was released, Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, wrote to the president of Sony pictures to complain about the film’s portrayal of torture as being essential to finding out where bin Laden was hiding. The film, she wrote, “is factually inaccurate, and we believe that you have an obligation to state that the role of torture in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden is not based on the facts, but rather part of the film’s fictional narrative.”
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