Senate Letter Condemning Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark ThirtyA remarkable thing happened yesterday. Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin, and John McCain sent a letter to Michael Lynton, the CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. It was regarding the portrayal of torture in the new film, Zero Dark Thirty. Feinstein does it as the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

It is a most reasonable, if direct, letter. They point out that they understand that writers make things up to tell a more dramatic story. Their concern is with the opening of the film which displays on the screen, “Based on first-hand accounts of actual events.” They call for the producers to make clear that torture was not helpful in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

They spend more than a page discussing not only the ineffectiveness of torture in this particular case but in general. And they are very concerned about what the Bush (never mentioned by name) torture program has done to the soul of America. They end the letter:

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, inhumane, and degrading treatment of prisoners is an unreliable and highly ineffective means of gathering intelligence.

The use of torture should be banished from serious public discourse for these reasons alone, but more importantly, because it is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, because it is an affront to America’s national honor, and because it is wrong. The use of torture in the fight against terrorism did severe damage to America’s values and standing that cannot be justified or expunged. It remains a stain on our national conscience. We cannot afford to go back to these dark times, and with the release of Zero Dark Thirty, the filmmakers and your production studio are perpetuating the myth that torture is effective. You have a social and moral obligation to get the facts right.

It is rare that I feel pride about an elected representative. This is a very good letter and it is nice to see some people in power stand up for at least a small part of what I always believed were this country’s values.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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