In a letter to Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Lynton, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McCain, R-Ariz., said graphic scenes of detainees being tortured, in particular, create the implication that torture yielded "critical" information on a courier who, in turn, led to bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader killed by Navy SEALs in a May 2011 raid in Pakistan.
"'Zero Dark Thirty' is factually inaccurate, and we believe that you have an obligation to state that the role of torture in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden is not based on the facts, but rather part of the film's fictional narrative," the senators wrote.
"We understand that the film is fiction, but it opens with the words 'based on first-hand accounts of actual events' and there has been significant media coverage of the CIA's cooperation with the screenwriters," Feinstein, Levin and McCain wrote.
They said the movie -- which has received several award nominations and is considered a likely nominee for a best picture Oscar -- "clearly implies that the CIA's coercive interrogation techniques were effective in eliciting important information related to a courier for Osama Bin Laden. We have reviewed CIA records and know that this is incorrect."
The letter said the Senate Intelligence Committee staff has reviewed more than 6 million pages of intelligence agency records and concluded that information leading to bin Laden "was obtained from a wide variety of intelligence sources and methods," and that "...no detainee in CIA custody revealed the facilitator/courier's full true name or specific whereabouts. This information was discovered through other intelligence means."
Feinstein, Levin and McCain wrote that they are concerned "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."
"Please consider correcting the impression that the CIA's use of coercive interrogation techniques led to the operation against Osama Bin Laden. It did not."