Ex-CIA Director Leon Panetta Approves Of 'Zero Dark Thirty,' Says Torture Was Not 'Critical Element' To Bin Laden's Capture

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by Charlie Schmidlin
February 5, 2013 9:42 AM
6 Comments
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Kathryn Bigelow's “Zero Dark Thirty” is an absolute compendium of blink-and-you'll-miss-them acting roles, from the narratively vital (Joel Edgerton) to the completely jarring (John Barrowman, what?). One of the most essential, though, comes from James Gandolfini as then-CIA director Leon Panetta, and the man himself has recently thrown some insight -- and kudos -- toward Bigelow's drama.

Due to step down as U.S. Defense Secretary this month, Panetta called “Zero Dark Thirty” a “good film,” but recognized it as a fiction, albeit one capturing a more accurate vision than most. "I think people ought to make their own judgments,” he said. “There are parts of it that give you a good sense of how the intelligence operations do work. But I also think people in the end have to understand that it isn't a documentary, it's a movie."

As Jessica Chastain's CIA character finds out in the opening reels of the film, torture methods were used on detainees to gain information on Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. This depiction has garnered an onslaught of criticism from politicians, rights advocates, and the acting CIA head, Michael Morell, but Panetta believes the methods were helpful, yet not entirely pivotal to the case's direction.

“[There's] no question that some of the intelligence gathered was a result of some of these methods," he explained. "But I think it's difficult to say that they were the critical element. I think they were part of the vast puzzle that you had to put together in order to ultimately locate where bin Laden was." Asked then if bin Laden would've been found without the interrogation methods, he replied, "I think we would have found him, even without that piece of the puzzle."

So another voice had added to the melee, but with Panetta's background and integral role in the real-life events, a much more insightful one. But what did he think of Gandolfini's performance in the film?

He remained mute on that point, but offered instead, "Somebody came up to me and said I saw you in that movie but you lost a lot of weight." [Herald Sun]

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6 Comments

  • Brandt Hardin | February 5, 2013 8:23 PMReply

    This movie is trash and glamorizes the American atrocity which is the “War on Terror.” Well over a year after Bin Laden’s death and over 10 years since 9/11, American citizens are still blindly allowing their civil liberties to be taken away one piece of legislation at a time in the naming of fighting terrorism. Even our own citizens can be detained and tortured without trial. What difference did it make killing Bin Laden and Hussein if nothing has changed? You can read much more about living in this Orwellian society of fear and see my visual response to these measures on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/09/living-in-society-of-fear-ten-years.html

  • Alan B | February 6, 2013 7:38 AM

    Oh Jesus, another one? Buddy, if no one cares about Pol's blog, then why would anyone want to read yours? If you REALLY wanted to address the political overtones of the film in specifics - chiefly, how the film's composition, style and script help define an underlying ideology - then great, good luck to you. But you're not: you just want to speak in meaningless buzz terms, preferring to hector the reader rather than engage them with genuine insight into the film.

  • pol | February 5, 2013 3:54 PMReply

    CIA criminal approves of Hollywood's CIA propaganda. Shocker. Zero Dark Thirty Scandal Files - http://politicalfilm.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/zero-dark-thirty-scandal-files/

  • Alan B | February 5, 2013 4:17 PM

    And still no one cares about your blog.

  • Randsom | February 5, 2013 11:12 AMReply

    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says he “lived the real story” of “Zero Dark Thirty” — and in the real version, the United States put together most of the intelligence leading to Osama bin Laden “without having to resort to” enhanced interrogation methods.

    In an interview aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Panetta said he believes Bin Laden would have been discovered even without those tactics.

    “First of all, it's a movie,” Panetta said. “Let's remember that. I lived the real story.”

    “And the real story is that in order to put the puzzle of intelligence together that led us to  Bin Laden, there was a lot of intelligence,” he added. “There were a lot of pieces out there that were part of that puzzle. Yes, some of it came from some of the tactics that were used at that time, interrogation tactics that were used. But the fact is we put together most of that intelligence without having to resort to that.”

    “And you think you could have gotten it without any?” NBC’s Chuck Todd asked.

    “I think we could have gotten Bin Laden without that,” Panetta replied.

  • Randsom | February 5, 2013 11:16 AM

    Sorry, this site replaced the quotation marks with the â symbol.

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