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‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Version of Killing of Bin-Laden is Basically a Huge Lie


A new report suggests that the ‘Zero Dark Thirty' account of 's was basically a lie.

The 2012 action-thriller, ‘Zero Dark Thirty' was supposed to be based on a true story. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, ‘Zero Dark Thirty' was called “the story of history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man”. The movie dramatizes the 10 year manhunt for Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the . The search eventually leads to the discovery of bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, and the military raid on it that resulted in his death on May 2, 2011.

However, a new report suggests that ‘Zero Dark Thirty' was based on a lie and essentially Hollywood propaganda to sell to the masses.

Zero Dark Thirty

Osama bin Laden Investigative Report

According to a 10,000 word investigative report by Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, the entire Bin Laden death story is all a lie.

This weekend Hersh published a new investigative report on the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the gist of which is that Bin Laden wasn't so much in hiding, as previously reported, but being held on house arrest by Pakistani security services when he was .

Hersh argues that the US discovered him not through years of intelligence , but through a tip from an ISI-connected Pakistani looking to collect the $25 million reward. In addition, from the start, the raid was a kill mission and carried out with the full cooperation of the ISI.

Here are a couple of key points. First, Hersh describes the mission as a joint operation between the ISI and America:

This spring I contacted Durrani [head of the ISI in the 90s] and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources: that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha[Pakistan's two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI] knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden's whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration's account were false.

It was a kill mission from the start:

A former Seal commander, who has led and participated in dozens of similar missions over the past decade, assured me that ‘we were not going to keep bin Laden alive – to allow the terrorist to live. By law, we know what we're doing inside Pakistan is a homicide. We've come to grips with that. Each one of us, when we do these missions, say to ourselves, “Let's face it. We're going to commit a murder.”' The White House's initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration's targeted assassination programme. The US has consistently maintained, despite widely reported remarks by people involved with the mission, that bin Laden would have been alive if he had immediately surrendered.

There was no resistance at the compound (according to Hersh, the ISI guards protecting the compound simply left as soon as they heard a helicopter coming).

There was no firefight as they moved into the compound; the ISI guards had gone. ‘Everyone in Pakistan has a gun and high-profile, wealthy folks like those who live in Abbottabad have armed bodyguards, and yet there were no weapons in the compound,' the retired official pointed out. Had there been any opposition, the team would have been highly vulnerable. Instead, the retired official said, an ISI liaison officer flying with the Seals guided them into the darkened house and up a staircase to bin Laden's quarters. The Seals had been warned by the Pakistanis that heavy steel doors blocked the stairwell on the first and second-floor landings; bin Laden's rooms were on the third floor. The Seal squad used explosives to blow the doors , without injuring anyone. One of bin Laden's wives was screaming hysterically and a bullet – perhaps a stray round – struck her knee. Aside from those that hit bin Laden, no other shots were fired. (The Obama administration's account would hold otherwise.)

‘They knew where the target was – third floor, second door on the right,' the retired official said. ‘Go straight there. Osama was cowering and retreated into the bedroom. Two shooters followed him and opened up. Very simple, very straightforward, very professional hit.'

Hersh describes Bin Laden as being more or less a sad, sick man, rather than a valuable target that could help share details into Al Qaeda's terrorist network:

‘Despite all the talk,' the retired official continued, there were ‘no garbage bags full of computers and storage devices. The guys just stuffed some books and papers they in his room in their backpacks. The Seals weren't there because they thought bin Laden was running a command centre for al-Qaida operations, as the White House would later tell the media. And they were not intelligence experts gathering information inside that house.'

Hersh continues to point out that the plan was for the Obama administration to claim Bin Laden had been killed in a drone attack in the Hindu Kush mountains. But because they had crashed a helicopter during a raid, they assummed word would eventually leak, and so the White House and the CIA “couldn't wait to brag and to claim credit,” according to Robert Gates.

In addition, according to Hersh, the Seals actually killed only Bin Laden, instead of the five people reported, and that the information leading to the raid was obtained through the ISI and by waterboarding suspected terrorists.

Obama, said [John Brennan, then Obama's senior adviser for counterterrorism] ‘made what I believe was one of the gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory'. Brennan increased the number killed by the Seals inside the compound to five: bin Laden, a courier, his brother, a bin Laden son, and one of the women said to be shielding bin Laden.

Gates also objected to the idea, pushed by Brennan and Leon Panetta, that US intelligence had learned of bin Laden's whereabouts from information acquired by waterboarding and other forms of torture. ‘All of this is going on as the Seals are flying home from their mission. The guys know the whole story,' the retired official said. ‘It was a group of annuitants who did it.' (Annuitants are retired CIA officers who remain active on contract.) ‘They had been called in by some of the mission planners in the agency to help with the cover story. So the old-timers come in and say why not admit that we got some of the information about bin Laden from enhanced interrogation?' At the time, there was still talk in Washington about the possible prosecution of CIA agents who had conducted torture.

The White House Denies the version of events

The White House disagrees with Hersh's version of events. From CNN:

“There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact check each one,” White House National Security spokesman Ned Price said in a statement to reporters.

He took aim specifically at journalist Seymour Hersh's assertion that the administration collaborated with Pakistani officials to kill the al Qaeda leader, saying that “the notion that the operation that killed Usama Bin Ladin was anything but a unilateral U.S. mission is patently false.”

“As we said at the time, knowledge of this operation was confined to a very small circle of senior U.S. officials. The President decided early on not to inform any other government, including the Pakistani Government, which was not notified until after the raid had occurred,” Price said.

Zero Dark Thirty: Propaganda?

Zero Dark Thirty received wide critical acclaim, and appeared on 95 critics' top ten lists of 2012. It was nominated in five categories at the 85th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Chastain, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing, and won the award for Best Sound Editing. The film also earned Golden Globe Award nominations forBest Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, with Chastain winning the award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama.

It is important to point out that the CIA helped write the script for Zero Dark Thirty. When the movie was in pre-, the CIA demanded changes to the movie's script. In a memo obtained by Gawker, ‘Zero Dark Thirty' had several scenes changed and altered.

The much-discussed opening scene of Zero Dark Thirty features the main character Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, observing a detainee at a CIA black site as he is water-boarded and shoved into a tiny box during an interrogation. It appears that an early version had Maya participating in the torture. But during their conference calls, the CIA told Boal that this was not true to life. The memo reads: “For this scene we emphasized that substantive debriefers [i.e. Maya] did not administer [Enhanced Interrogation Techniques] because in this scene he had a non-interrogator, substantive debriefer assisting in a dosing technique.”

There were several other scenes altered and changed. But, it demonstrates that we will probably never know what really happened and what we do know is probably fan-fiction.

Either way, Zero Dark Thirty was pretty entertaining.

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