Have you seen Zero Dark Thirty? The movie, about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, has received rave reviews – it’s an Oscar contender – and if you enjoy a thriller, you should see it.
But as you watch, you should know that the movie has generated controversy because it leaves a mistaken impression: that the CIA’s torture of prisoners “worked” by providing information that led to bin Laden. Some will use the movie to argue that the CIA’s torture program was justified.
Of course, as I can tell you, movies are entertainment, not fact. And especially on an issue as important as torture, we shouldn’t mistake fiction for fact.
The fact is that torture did not lead to bin Laden. The Senate Intelligence Committee spent four years investigating the CIA’s torture program, and according to three of its leaders who know the facts – Senators Diane Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain – the torture program didn’t lead to bin Laden.
These 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.”
The problem is that the committee’s findings – in a 6,000-page factual report – have been adopted by the committee but not released. They are sitting in a Congressional vault and with the CIA.
More than a decade after the torture program began, it is long past time that all of us know the facts, so we can better safeguard our country against torture ever being used again. As Senator McCain wrote, the Senate Intelligence Committee “should take whatever steps necessary to finalize and declassify this report, so that all Americans can see the record for themselves.”
As a concerned American who wants to make sure our nation never takes the wrong path again, I believe it is essential that we all have the truth. Because when it comes to torture, the national conversation should be based on the facts – and not what makes the most the exciting story.
It is wrong and frustrating that Americans can see torture depicted in fictionalized movies like Zero Dark Thirty, but are blocked from getting the real facts on the past CIA torture program. We should watch Zero Dark Thirty as entertainment, but when we talk about torture, we should have the facts.