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U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee drops bin Laden film probe

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal of "Zero Dark Thirty", which is nominated for Best Picture Oscar, arrive at the 85th Aca
Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal of "Zero Dark Thirty", which is nominated for Best Picture Oscar, arrive at the 85th Aca

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One day after "Zero Dark Thirty" failed to win major awards at the Oscars, a congressional aide said on Monday the Senate Intelligence Committee has closed its inquiry into the filmmakers' contacts with the Central Intelligence Agency.

The intelligence committee gathered more information from the CIA and will not take further action, according to the aide, who requested anonymity.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, which distributed the film in the United States, said it was in touch with the filmmakers but had no immediate comment. Screenwriter Mark Boal said he had no comment. But attacks by Washington politicians may have damaged its prospects at the Academy Awards. "Zero Dark Thirty" was nominated for a best picture award, which it did not win. Also, in what industry watchers considered a snub, director Kathryn Bigelow did not receive a best director nomination.

The Senate committee launched its review of the film, a dramatization of how the U.S. government located and killed Osama bin Laden, after its chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, expressed outrage over scenes that implied that "enhanced interrogations" of CIA detainees produced an breakthrough that helped lead to the al Qaeda leader.

In December, as "Zero Dark Thirty" was about to premiere nationwide, Feinstein joined fellow Democrat Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Republican Senator John McCain in condemning "particularly graphic scenes of CIA officers torturing detainees" in the film.

A source familiar with contacts between the filmmakers and intelligence officials said the CIA did not tell the filmmakers "enhanced interrogations" led to bin Laden. Instead, the agency helped develop characters in the film, said the source.

The political fallout prompted Bigelow to write in an op-ed piece: "Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement. If it was, no artist would be able to paint inhumane practices, no author could write about them, and no filmmaker could delve into the thorny subjects of our time."

The government cooperated as much, if not more, on "Argo," the film about the 1979-81 hostage crisis in Iran that won the best picture Oscar. Actor-director Ben Affleck and his team were allowed to film scenes in the lobby of the CIA building in Langley, Virginia; the "Zero Dark Thirty" crew did no such filming.

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball. Editing by Warren Strobel and Doina Chiacu)

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