National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 410
Washington, DC, January 17, 2013 – The poster for the blockbuster movie Zero Dark Thirty features black lines of redaction over the title, which unintentionally illustrate the most accurate take-away from the film - that most of the official record of the hunt for Osama bin Laden is still shrouded in secrecy, according to the National Security Archive's ZD30 briefing book, posted today at www.nsarchive.org. The U.S. government's recalcitrance over releasing information directly to the public about the twenty-first century's most important intelligence search and military raid, and its decision instead to grant the film's producers exclusive and unprecedented access to classified information about the operation, means that for the time being – for bad or good – Hollywood has become the public's "account of record" for Operation Neptune Spear.
As often happens when the government declines on secrecy grounds to provide an authoritative account of a controversial event, leaked, unauthorized and untrustworthy versions rush to fill the void. In this extraordinary case, a Hollywood motion picture, with apparent White House, CIA, and Pentagon blessing and despite its historical inaccuracies, is now the closest thing to the official story behind the pursuit of bin Laden.
Zero Dark Thirty 's screenwriter, Mark Boal, has claimed that the film is "a movie not a documentary" and should not be treated as history. But the U.S. government's widely reported support and its official silence about the raid have made Zero Dark Thirty (the military designation for 12:30 AM) more than a mere thriller. Today, in an effort to balance the record, to the extent currently possible, the National Security Archive has collected, posted, and analyzed in one Electronic Briefing Book all of the available official documents on the mission to kill the notorious al-Qaeda leader. The documents include: read more>>>