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Torture: crime or political controversy?

Brooke LakeAs I walked out of the Cinemark 16 at the conclusion of the film Zero Dark Thirty I felt significantly underwhelmed. I have never considered Hollywood an accurate or objective source of information. Its’ main goal is to produce mass media.

However, Zero Dark Thirty was not just another action packed film with explosions. In fact, the director of the film, Kathryn Bigelow, openly admits to working in close conjunction with the CIA to produce the film.


Through the use of post 9-11 rhetoric, Zero Dark Thirty is simply a propaganda tool to sway the masses into believing the story of Osama Bin Laden’s capture through the eyes of the CIA.

For more than forty minutes the audience is subjected to watch detainees being water boarded, sleep deprived, placed in stress positions, sexually abused, beaten and locked in small boxes at the hands of CIA operatives as a means of interrogation.

Even more, almost all Muslims and those of Middle Eastern descent in the film are depicted as corrupt and atrocious individuals. Throughout the film,  the audience is manipulated into believing that all acts performed by the CIA in this operation, including torture as a means of obtaining information and innocent murders, were justifiable and patriotic.

It’s bad enough that the majority of Hollywood films subject Americans to offensive and highly inaccurate stereotypes of certain ethnic and religious groups. However, it’s disturbing when the CIA invents such falsehoods through the use of Hollywood film.

At a time when the effectiveness and legitimacy of CIA torture procedures are put under the microscope, the film could not have come at a more crucial time. The film was handcrafted by the CIA to reach a large demographic of Americans who typically do not involve themselves in political matters in order to convince them that the torture tactics used in the search for Osama Bin Laden were crucial to his capture.

When in fact, members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee called the torture methods used, “a terrible mistake.” Even more, the European Court of Human Rights condemned CIA torture.

Torture, as a means of obtaining information and even in the case of locating Osama Bin Laden, has been proven to be a faulty method of interrogation. In 2002, the Pentagon’s chief lawyer received a memo from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency warning the CIA that the use of torture may produce “unreliable information.”

Even more reports have come out with a multiplicity of cases that show innocent people being detained based off their name or country of origin, tortured by the CIA, and (only after the CIA recognized their error) dropped off with absolutely no retribution. Those members of CIA and affiliates involved in torture cases have been given immunity, despite a public cry for trial.

Regardless of the film’s overt attempt at justifying CIA torture, the facts still remain: torture violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and according to the 2006 U.S. Army Field Manual “no person in the custody or under the control of DOD, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, in accordance with and as defined in U.S. law.”


Even though Obama’s executive order to shut down the ‘black sites’ where individuals were tortured as a means of interrogation, there is still evidence that suggests the United States essentially outsources its torture to other countries such as Somalia.

Interestingly enough, Zero Dark Thirty has been tipped as an Oscar contender which speaks volumes about the American public: we are deeply divided on the issue of torture, as well as deeply misinformed about our nation’s history.

The film has convoluted the minds of its viewers into polarizing torture as either a crime or political controversy. Bottom line: torture as a means of interrogation according to United States law is illegal and has been proven to be ineffective- no controversy there.

Why then does the CIA feel the need to rationalize their injustice through the use of Hollywood film?

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