A newly-declassified CIA document indicates Mark Boal, lead screenwriter for the film Zero Dark Thirty, worked alongside members of the agency’s public affairs department to shape the film according to their requests.
In an article that labels the controversial film as “the biggest publicity coup for the CIA this century outside of the actual killing of Osama bin Laden,” Gawker reports that members of the CIA consulted with Boal during the film’s early development stages to alter or remove scenes from the film entirely.
One scene, which was eventually removed at the request of the CIA, included the protagonist Maya - played by Jessica Chastain - participating in the torture of a detainee suspected of harboring information that could have led to Bin Laden’s location.
In relation to this scene, the declassified document states:
"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 [i.e. waterboarding] technique." The memo goes on to read, "Boal said he would fix this."
Another scene that was also removed from the film involved the use of a violent dog during an interrogation – a scare tactic used to force a detainee to give up valuable information.
"We raised an objection that such tactics would not be used by the Agency...Boal confirmed in January that the use of dogs was taken out of the screenplay," the memo reads.
In response to the Gawker article Boal stated, "We honored certain requests to keep operational details and the identity of the participants confidential. But as with any publication or work of art, the final decisions as to the content were made by the filmmakers."