Cliff May

Nazir is dead. Actually, both Nazirs are dead. Earlier this month,Mullah Nazir, a Taliban and al-Qaeda commander, was killed by an American drone strike in South Waziristan, a tribal area of Pakistan. Also recently killed: Abu Nazir, the fictional al-Qaeda terrorist in the suspenseful Showtime series Homeland.

I suspect more Americans know about Abu Nazir than Mullah Nazir. It also seems possible that more Americans are forming their understanding of the global conflict now underway based on television dramas and movies than on newspaper dispatches and the talking heads who quarrel over the airwaves.

This may explain, at least in part, why senators Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin, and John McCain last month sent a letter to Sony Pictures expressing their anger over Zero Dark Thirty, the feature film loosely based on the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden. The senators called the movie “grossly inaccurate and misleading” because it suggests that harsh interrogations produced intelligence that led to the discovery of bin Laden’s whereabouts. The senators are now investigating the CIA’s communications with the filmmakers to determine whether “inappropriate” access was provided. Your tax dollars at work.

Acting CIA director Michael Morell was among those who provided access — appropriate or not — to Zerodirector Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Michael Boal. Morell released a statement saying that harsh interrogations were not “the key to finding bin Laden.” He acknowledged, however, that some intelligence did come “from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques.” Former CIA director Michael Hayden and former attorney general Michael Mukasey have both said the same. Actually, Mukasey has gone further, saying that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “broke like a dam” thanks to waterboarding, and provided a “torrent of information”

Morrell’s main complaint with the film is that it does not make clear that a “very large team” — not just “Maya,” the main protagonist in the movie — was actually responsible for finding bin Laden. Last week, Morell was passed over for the top job at the agency in favor of White House adviser John Brennan. I don’t know whether there was any connection.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.