The realities highlighted by the Oscar-nominated film
"Zero Dark Thirty," which detailed the operation that ended with the killing of
I think it's safe to say that tactics like loud music, sleep deprivation and waterboarding would at least be more effective than asking an unlawful enemy combatant obsessed with killing you to politely fill you in on any adverse operations. The question of whether an activity constitutes torture really depends on your own definition of it: your point of reference, personal preferences and level of tolerance. Western military and intelligence personnel are trained to withstand enemy interrogation tactics. It's just one of those things that go with the territory when you choose warfare as a profession, particularly when you engage as a freelance guerilla unassociated with a nation-state covered by the Geneva Conventions' protections.
But "Zero Dark Thirty" depicts many other realities about intelligence work that have passed under the radar.
One of the reasons why most films about intelligence and espionage are unrealistic is because in movies, officers are allowed to take initiative. They get an idea, maybe run it by a colleague on the down-low or muse about it to a superior, then simply run out and execute it. The paper-shuffling and painstaking approval process is typically omitted from films, likely for fear that watching officers fill out forms would put audiences to sleep.
"Zero Dark Thirty" makes the very real frustrations of not being able to act entrepreneurially within a bloated bureaucratic agency highly compelling, with the main character -- a CIA officer portrayed by Oscar-nominated
Chastain's CIA officer says to the agency director that she's "done nothing else" over her 12 years with the agency besides work on the bin Laden case. Unlike with
The film includes various shots of information mapping boards, showing the connections CIA analysts have drawn between various pieces of information and terror suspects. Intelligence work is a giant puzzle with millions of tiny pieces. Sometimes a nugget of intelligence carries no particular significance when it first pops onto an analyst's radar, but it ends up becoming valuable as more pieces are added. Vibrations in the muck can turn out to be significant in the final analysis.
This is why, for example, Russian models and businessmen in major world cities such as
As with the shadowy world of espionage itself, the most interesting real-world lessons in "Zero Dark Thirty" are a bit farther below the surface.
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