Larry Elder
In "Zero Dark Thirty," the movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden, one of the first scenes shows a terrorist being waterboarded, where useful information gets extracted. The movie thus asserts the controversial practice leads to actionable intelligence.

Not only was former President George W. Bush criticized for "authorizing torture," his critics argued that "torture doesn't work." During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama said: "Torture is how you get bad information, not good intelligence. ... No more secret authorization of methods like simulated drowning. When I am President, America will once again be the country that stands up to these deplorable tactics."

"Zero Dark Thirty " threatens that narrative.

Here's the problem. Presumably to help make the film as accurate as possible, and, many suspect, to aid in his re-election, President Barack Obama's administration gave the filmmakers what some describe as "unprecedented access" to the State Department. At the time, many conservatives criticized the cozy relationship the screenwriter and director enjoyed with the State Department. (The film, ultimately, didn't come out until after Obama's re-election.)

The Obama administration was not happy. How dare the movie suggest that waterboarding "worked" and that it led to information useful in leading us to bin Laden?!

So in a rare comment on the alleged accuracy of a movie, the head of the CIA issued a statement denying that waterboarding played a positive role in leading to bin Laden. The film, wrote acting CIA Director Mike Morell, "takes significant artistic license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate. ... 'Zero Dark Thirty' is a dramatization, not a realistic portrayal of the facts. ... Whether enhanced interrogation techniques were the only timely and effective way to obtain information from those detainees, as the film suggests, is a matter of debate that cannot and never will be definitively resolved."

This statement didn't satisfy the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, prompting a probe of the CIA's contacts with the filmmakers. Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and two other committee members, Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., sent a letter to Morell, challenging his statement. The senators claimed that Morell's words were "potentially inconsistent" with their committee's studies and asked him to "provide specific examples of information that was obtained in a 'timely and effective' way from CIA detainees subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques."

Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit