Ali H. Soufan, who won the 2012 Ridenhour Book Prize for his book The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda, had an Op-Ed in the New York Times about the controversial film by Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal that detailed the hunt for and capture of Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty. A former FBI counterterrorism investigator, Soufan knows better than almost anyone the efficiency — or lack thereof — of "enhanced interrogation techniques."
In the Times, he takes apart the claim by the filmmakers that the film is depicted on actual events, an argument that has been supported by numerous others, including Senators with access to classified documents. While Hollywood artists have the right to spin the truth, Soufan writes, the onus is on the government to share information with the public to ensure that a twisted version of events doesn't go down in history.
While filmmakers have the right to say what they want, government officials don’t have the right to covertly provide filmmakers with false information to promote their own interests. Providing selective information about a classified program means there is no free market of ideas, but a controlled market subject to manipulation. That’s an abuse of power.
As Soufan repeated in a December 2012 interview with Foreign Policy magazine, waterboarding did not lead to the capture of bin Laden in an Abbottabad compound, and in fact led investigators away from it. Once the 6,000-page report produced by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is declassified, Soufan is confident that "it won’t be long before another Hollywood movie comes along to tell the real story about how America killed Bin Laden."
Soufan was awarded the Ridenhour Book Prize last year for The Black Banners, an extraordinary account of his time at the FBI and his investigations into al-Qaeda, starting with the beginnings of the group during the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamic militants of 1979 and ending with the death of Osama bin Laden in 2010. As the judges wrote, with The Black Banners, Soufan "has written the definitive history of al-Qaeda, and provides irrefutable evidence that torture is not only antithetical to American values, but produces false and dangerous information."
To watch the video of Soufan's acceptance speech, please click here.
To read about other Ridenhour recipients' reviews of Zero Dark Thirty, please click here.