Former U.S. intelligence chief Leon Panetta has revealed he accidentally offered up top secret information about the mission to kill terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden to Zero Dark Thirty scriptwriter Mark Boal during a classified meeting. Panetta explains he was unaware Boal was in attendance and assumed everyone in the room had the proper clearance to be there.
A statement from Panetta reads, "I had no idea that individual was in the audience. To this day, I wouldn't know him if he walked into the room."
Requests for the documents were made by members of political watchdog group Judicial Watch, and on Tuesday (10Dec13) bosses at America's Central Intelligence Agency released them.
The information pertains to the name of the ground commander of the unit that carried out the raid.
This isn't the first controversy surrounding the movie - in 2012, reports suggested officials at the CIA gave classified information to director Katherine Bigelow and Boal after they requested it. However, Boal insisted he never asked for any documents.
The film also made headlines for its heavy depiction of torture on screen. Many U.S. lawmakers were upset by the suggestion enhanced interrogation techniques were used to extract pertinent information from enemy combatants. The government officials insisted the important intelligence which led to Bin Laden's death was not obtained through torture.
Zero Dark Thirty, which starred Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke, chronicles the story of the years leading up to the mission which led to the attack on Bin Laden's Pakistan compound - and the terrorist mastermind's death in 2011.
The Sopranos star plays Panetta, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in the gritty thriller, about the hunt for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, but he expects the politician will not be impressed with his onscreen image.
The actor explains, "I sent a note to Leon saying, 'I'm very sorry about everything. The wig, everything. You're kind of like my father. You'll find something to be angry about.'"
Gandolfini's comments came during Tuesday's (08Jan13) National Board of Review Awards in New York City, where he presented his Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow with a trophy.
He also told guests at the prizegiving that screenwriter Mark Boal told him Panetta wanted the actor to give him a phone call but joked that he "doesn't know how to get in touch... This is the head of the CIA."
The most unbearable scene in Zero Dark Thirty — Kathryn Bigelow's intense, thrilling, and often difficult account of the extensive manhunt that lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden — isn't actually seen onscreen, but heard. The film opens to utter darkness, but we hear the still-horrifying sounds from 9/11. An airplane crashing, wailing sirens from first responders, and worst of all, a desperate, gut-wrenching phone call made from someone inside one of the burning towers. While Bigelow and her screenwriter Mark Boal have staunchly defended their film as neutral and void of any agenda other than relaying the facts, that godawful real-life phone call plays an unrelenting loop in your mind throughout the nearly three-hour runtime.
Yet that emotional, borderline manipulative opening sequence isn't the one that has people talking about the moral compass of the Oscar front-runner. It is the torture sequences that take place in the film that are getting the most attention. We've seen the images of 9/11 too many times, more than a person can bear. What we haven't seen, however, is the things that happened in blacked-out documents: the who, what, when, and where that lead to the eventual killing of bin Laden.
The first torture scene in Zero Dark Thirty, which takes place very early on in the film, is not an easy one to watch by any means. Not even with that terrible phone call looping in your mind. Even Maya (Jessica Chastain), the headstrong CIA operative who relentlessly leads the bin Laden hunt, has to look away as a prisoner is — among other things — waterboarded, stripped, and eventually placed in a coffin-sized box by his torturer, fellow CIA operative Dan (Jason Clarke, pictured). It is an unflinching sequence that leaves the viewer with uneasy questions to ask themselves.
It's a sequence that's not sitting well with some critics, and one that's especially not sitting well with some high ranking politicians who have seen the film. Senators John McCain (R), Dianne Feinstein (D), and Carl Levin (R) have expressed their dismay with the depiction of torture and the role it actually played in tracking down bin Laden. McCain, a member of the Bush Administration and a Vietnam veteran who endured torture himself, said the film made him feel "sick." In a letter penned to Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton, the three senators say they felt “deep disappointment” with the movie, and that "the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of [Osama] bin Laden.” They also called the film — which is currently being investigated for leaking classified information — as “factually inaccurate,” and “perpetuating a myth that torture is effective." They urge that the filmmakers and the studio have a "social and moral obligation" to get the facts straight.
The three continue to say that they worry that "the fundamental problem is that people who see Zero Dark Thirty will believe that the events it portrays are facts. The film therefore has the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner. Recent public opinion polls suggest that a narrow majority of Americans believe that torture can be justified as an effective form of intelligence gathering. This is false. We know that cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners is an unreliable and highly ineffective means of gathering intelligence."
This raises another set of questions entirely. Wouldn't Bigelow and Boal have received far worse criticism if they'd left torture, an undeniably ugly mark on American history, out entirely? Or did the filmmakers take far too many artistic liberties with the role torture played in tracking down bin Laden's courier, the man that would eventually lead them to finding the al Qaeda leader's compound, the very site where Seal Team Six would eventually kill the 9/11 mastermind? After all, this is a film that opens with a title card that it reads, “Based on first-hand accounts of actual events.”
In the New Yorker's scathing piece on the torture scenes in the film, titled "Zero Conscience in Zero Dark Thirty", Jane Meyer highlights two particular points of contention. The aforementioned torture scene depicted in real life the "F.B.I. agent present at the scene threw a fit, warned the C.I.A. contractor proposing the plan that it was illegal, counterproductive, and reprehensible. The fight went all the way to the top of the Bush Administration." Meyer argues that "Bigelow airbrushes out this showdown, as she does virtually the entire debate during the Bush years about the treatment of detainees." Meyer also points to the report from the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent shortly after bin Laden was killed, Leon Panetta, then the director of the C.I.A., sent a letter to Senator McCain, which stated that “we first learned about ‘the facilitator / courier’s nom de guerre’ from a detainee not in the C.I.A.’s custody.... “no detainee in C.I.A. custody revealed the facilitator / courier’s full true name or specific whereabouts.” In other words the information about the courier was not, as the film presents, from a tortured detainee.
While the concerns raised by the film's critics are certainly valid ones, it's a debate that's raged on in Hollywood time and time again. Where does fact and fiction collide in entertainment? Has there ever been an instance when a film based on true events hasn't embellished certain aspects of the story for dramatic value or altered the reality of the situation. (Even 2010's Best Picture winner, the far less button-pushing The King's Speech was criticized for accentuating "a gross falsification of history.") Zero Dark Thirty may play like a documentary at times, but in the end, it is a work of fiction based on facts.
There's also the overwhelming implication that the average viewer will walk away thinking torture is what lead to the eventual capture of Osama bin Laden. That without torture, no matter how grotesque or inhumane it was, the death of bin Laden would never have happened. Instead, what the film really presents is that the complicated issue of torture was a moving piece in a much larger puzzle. Tapping phone calls and bribing inside sources with fast cars were all morally ambiguous tactics that moved them slowly, but surely, to the ultimate end result. Implying that torture was the major factor in that decade-long manhunt is a disservice to the men and women who worked tirelessly, in so many different facets, that lead to bin Laden's death.
Zero Dark Thirty can be accused of plenty of things, including fabrication or uneasy to watch, but its overall importance about a chapter in American history and its impact on audiences is undeniable.
[Photo credit: Columbia Pictures]
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According to Entertainment Weekly magazine, the actor will portray U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta in the much-anticipated film Zero Dark Thirty, which is set to hit cinemas in December (12).
Gandolfini joins Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, Mark Strong, Lost's Harold Perrineau and Jennifer Ehle among others in the cast of the movie, which chronicles the search for the al-Qaeda leader following the 9/11 attacks on America and the special forces' raid on bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, which resulted in the terror mastermind's death in May, 2011.
Panetta allowed Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal access to information that led to the discovery of bin Laden's location. He testified before the Senate in June (12) that no classified information was leaked to them.
A small CIA-led team spent almost nine months tracking the terrorist mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks on America in 2001 after receiving vital information about reclusive bin Laden's whereabouts.
In an address to the nation given by U.S. leader President Barack Obama on Sunday night (01May11), he revealed he gave the order to capture or kill bin Laden and take custody of his body a week ago after deciding the experts had "enough intelligence to take action".
Obama learned of bin Laden's death from CIA Director Leon Panetta.
Bin Laden has been at the top of the world's most wanted terrorists list since 1998.
S7:E10: We were greeted last night with a rather pathetic vignette featuring Angelo’s complete emotional breakdown after Kenny was eliminated last episode. In Kenny’s absence, it appears Angelo has lost his sense of purpose and identity; he spent the hours after Kenny’s departure quivering in the back yard and eating yogurt. What is Lex Luthor without Superman? What is Rachel McAdams without Ryan Gosling?? He was totally inconsolable, wandering lost and disoriented in quilted slippers, feebly calling out for Kenny and mourning the loss of his own existential niche in the Top Chef dimension.
Quick Fire last night was a MYSTERY BOX challenge supervised by Wylie Dufresne, Molecular Gastronomist Extraordinaire. The cheftestants were told to start a dish using ingredients in the first box, and were to incorporate all components from arriving boxes into their dish. To be successful, the chefs were to keep their dishes to something general and easily manipulated. Tiffany did a great job at this, delighting Wylie and taking home 10 grand by making a fish stew which easily took the addition of the mystery ingredients, which included ramp (a scallion or leek type veg), black garlic (Kelly notes that it is sweeter and smokier than WHITE garlic, aw yeah), passion fruit, squid, and jicama.
Angelo, however, was all nerves. He showed none of his usual highly inappropriate, sexually-charged confidence and raw meat fetishism. He began sweating and crying into his hot gelee cakes and cold mousse. Luckily, both Alex and Amanda fared worse than him because they are both shit chefs, and while theirs was a lack of technical skill, Angelo’s failure stemmed from a deeply emotional, pained yearning for a lost love.
Next thing we know, Padma is repelling from the ceiling and window shades are being snapped shut. Tom Collicio commando-crawls out from under the fridge. “ATTENTION CHEFTESTANTS! You have been recruited into the CIA! This is a matter of NATIONAL SECURITY. Secret agents must be able to take on a new identity as a matter of life or DEATH and similarly, you will be disguising a classic dish so it looks different but tastes the same!” Yes, these ridiculous exclamations Padma actually said.
Amanda starts in with the “I would be a fantastic spy. I would seduce some secrets outta like, KGB.” (She’s worried about Soviets? Really?) She considers herself a modern-day Sydney Bristow, all tiny guns in lingerie and forbidden trysts with hot Canadian handlers. She drawls that her spy name would be Miss “Natasha”, if you’re nasty. We just collectively gagged and pretended not to have heard.
Fine. Insultingly corny themes aside, this challenge boiled down to the “deconstruction” task of previous seasons, which is usually a fun one. We have Angelo on a Beef Wellington, a dish I know very well from Hell’s Kitchen reruns. (That Wellington is RAW. IT'S RAAWWW!) Angelo ninnys about Whole Foods, and very unfortunately chooses to make a Wellington pizza with frozen puff pastry crust and pepperoni’s cut of out beef strips.
I know the producers are toying with us, threatening to take away Angelo after the easy execution of Kenny, but I know they are bluffing here with a red-herring edit. Stay calm chickees, Bravo wouldn’t leave us in the desolate purgatory of reality television populated by boring, one-dimensional white paper-dolls. If I had to watch Ed and Kelly duke it out for 3 more weeks….
In any case, at the judging, the cheftestants were led to LANGLEY, VIRGINIA to cook inside the CIA HEADQUARTERS and serve their disguised food to various CIA admins and the director of the CIA, Leon Panetta. Whaaaat? Awesome. Panetta was pretty charming, dispensing some canned joke about Angelo’s pizza representing a blundering operative headed for discovery and public hanging. After a dead-pan delivery he got some breaking news and was all “PANETTA OUT” and bounced outta there to take care of national security issues.
The judges also hated Amanda’s French Onion soup disguised as soup, but with sickly sweet marmalade. Before she brought it out, Amanda made a Hellen Keller joke! We all love Keller jokes, so we ignore the small fact that Hellen Keller could still taste shit.
Alex also made something disgusting as usual – a Veal Parmesan dish that was tough and apparently inedible.
Tiffany, of course, did smashingly; she cooked up a deconstructed gyro with little bits of food all across the plate that when mixed together released the flavors of that delicious street-meat. Ed also did well with an inside-out Chicken Cordon-Bleu, though the mix of cold-cuts and chicken looked a bit like a dorky kid's lunch. Kelly’s dish was also praised for it's creativity working Kung-pao shrimp into a soup.
Tom and the other judges were quite taken with Tiffany’s gyro dish! She took home the grand prize - a trip to Paris compliments of ubiquitous sponsor Hilton Hotels!
When the losers shuffled in, we could practically hear the wheels whizzing inside Amanda’s head, ticking off all the reasons this challenge was particularly unfair for her specifically, and how she is massively, exquisitely talented but constantly held back by these bullshit challenges.
Angelo seemed resigned and defeated, obviously longing only to be reunited with his better, darker, more chocolaty half.
But it was Alex who was informed that every single component of his dish had failed, and was unceremoniously sent home. The Russian has left the building!
Oh, and I realized this episode why Alex is so creepy: it is because his eyes are unblinking and his eyebrows are unmoving! When he speaks to the camera especially he stares without moving the upper part of his face. Very unsettling. That and his eternally pervy remarks in interviews and during scenes. I will miss his entertaining foreign weirdness though. Who will we rely on for some humorous relief? The comedic stylings of Kevin Sbraga? It is a long winter ahead of us comrades. DAS VIDANYA ALEX.