The Oscar-nominated film tells the story of the hunt and killing of Osama Bin Laden. Screenwriter Mark Boal told the New York Times Betty Ann Ong was a “national hero”.
Betty Ann Ong, a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, made a 23-minute phone call to authorities from an onboard phone to give them details of the hijacking.
She is among the victims whose voices are heard during a sequence at the start of Zero Dark Thirty. Her brother said the clip was used without permission.
“I thought it was just outrageous, and totally poor judgment, and an abuse of the voices,” Harry Ong told the New York Times.
The relatives of Betty Ann Ong, a flight attendant who died in the 9/11 attacks, have criticized the film Zero Dark Thirty for using a recording of her last call
Harry Ong has requested an apology be made at the Oscars if the film wins any of the five awards it is nominated for.
He also asked the film-makers to donate to a charitable foundation set up in Betty Ann Ong’s name, include a credit for her and put a statement on its website and DVD release making it clear that the Ong family did not endorse torture, which is depicted in the film.
Mark Boal told the newspaper: “As the 9/11 commission justly proclaimed, Betty Ong is without a doubt one of our national heroes.”
In a statement, film studio Sony and Annapurna Pictures said Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow had been in close contact with the families of victims since releasing the film, which was privately screened for many of them.
“Zero Dark Thirty is, in some small way, a tribute to those forever affected by the attacks,” the statement said.
A link has now been added from the official Zero Dark Thirty website to the Betty Ann Ong foundation, the Voices of September 11th organization and the 9/11 memorial site.
The movie has been at the centre of much controversy since its release, including over its depiction of torture, the links between the film-makers and the CIA and whether it was a propaganda tool for President Barack Obama’s re-election.
Argo and Zero Dark Thirty have won the top screenplay honors from the Writers Guild of America.
The Adapted Screenplay Award went to Chris Terrio for Ben Affleck’s Iran hostage drama Argo.
Mark Boal took the Original Screenplay prize for Kathryn Bigelow’s film chronicling the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty.
Malik Bendjelloul won the Documentary Award for Searching for Sugar Man, about the 1970s musician Rodriguez.
The guild was the last of Hollywood’s major trade unions to hand out awards before next Sunday’s Oscars.
Argo and Zero Dark Thirty have won the top screenplay honors from the Writers Guild of America
Argo has emerged as the best picture favorite at the Academy Awards, after scooping the top prize at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes, in addition to awards from the Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild and the Producers Guild of America.
“I’ve never actually won a call-your-name award before,” Chris Terrio said backstage after winning his award.
Prizes for television writing were also handed out, with Breaking Bad winning Best Drama series.
The writers of Louis claimed the prize for comedy series and Lena Dunham’s Girls was named Best New TV series.
The US Senate Intelligence Committee has demanded more information about contacts between the CIA and the makers of Osama Bin Laden film Zero Dark Thirty.
Kathryn Bigelow’s film is a dramatized account of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the 2011 mission which killed him.
In a letter to Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, three senators said the film-makers could have been misled by information provided by the CIA.
The film has been nominated for four Golden Globes and is one of the Oscars favorites.
Ahead of the US elections, Kathryn Bigelow’s film was accused of being a propaganda tool intended to assist President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
The US release of the film was subsequently put back until after November’s election.
The lawmakers have requested to see a copy of all the documents given to the film-makers by the CIA.
The letter, co-signed by Senate Intelligence Committee members Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and former presidential candidate John McCain, expressed concern over the “clear implication” in the film that extreme interrogation techniques had played a key role in locating Osama Bin Laden.
“Given the CIA’s cooperation with the film-makers and the narrative’s consistency with past public mis-statements by former senior CIA officials, the film-makers could have been misled by information they were provided by the CIA,” the letter says.
The US Senate Intelligence Committee has demanded more information about contacts between the CIA and the makers of Osama Bin Laden film Zero Dark Thirty
The letter adds that the film’s narrative conflicts with official statements that the CIA did not first learn about an Osama Bin Laden courier through a CIA detainee who had been subjected to “coercive interrogation techniques”.
It also said that, according to a separate Senate review, the most accurate information about the courier had been provided by a CIA detainee prior to any harsh interrogation.
The three US senators also wrote to the head of Sony Pictures Entertainment shortly before Christmas saying the film was “inaccurate”.
The senators claimed that Zero Dark Thirty “clearly implies that the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques were effective in eliciting important information related to a courier” for Osama Bin Laden, who would unknowingly lead the agency to his compound in Pakistan.
Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal – who won Oscars in 2010 for The Hurt Locker – said last month the film depicted “a variety of controversial practices and intelligence methods”.
They said: “The film shows that no single method was necessarily responsible for solving the manhunt, nor can any single scene taken in isolation fairly capture the totality of efforts the film dramatizes.”
On Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the Committee had begun an examination of records charting contacts between intelligence officials and Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal.
Reuters said the committee would also assess “whether CIA personnel are responsible for the portrayal of harsh interrogation practices, and in particular the suggestion that they were effective”.
A spokesperson for Sony told The Hollywood Reporter: “As the studio distributing Zero Dark Thirty in the United States, we are proud of this important film. Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal and their creative team have made an extraordinary motion picture and we fully support bringing this remarkable story to the screen.”
The film’s title is a military term for half-past midnight, the local time at which Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was raided by US Navy Seals.
Zero Dark Thirty opens across the US on January 11 and is also considered a likely Oscar contender.
The world’s most dangerous terror group foiled by a killer blonde in Calvin Klein who wars with her superiors? Only in Hollywood’s dreams, surely.
But, astonishingly, it has now emerged that truth may indeed be as strange as fiction. According to Zero Dark Thirty, a forthcoming film about the hunt for Bin Laden – whose makers were given top-level access to those involved – he might never have been found if it hadn’t been for an attractive young female CIA agent every bit as troublesome as Homeland’s Carrie Mathison.
CIA insiders have confirmed claims by the film’s director Kathryn Bigelow that she is entirely justified in focusing on the role played by a junior female CIA analyst, named Maya in the film and played by Jessica Chastain. And just as in Homeland, the real agent has been snubbed by superiors and fallen out with colleagues since the Bin Laden raid in May 2011.
But who is this CIA super sleuth? Although the woman is still undercover and has never been identified, Zero Dark Thirty’s emphasis on Maya’s importance tallies with the account of a U.S. Navy SEAL involved in the raid who later wrote about it in a book.
Matt Bissonnette writes in No Easy Day of flying out to Afghanistan before the raid with a CIA analyst he called “Jen” who was “wicked smart, kind of feisty” and liked to wear expensive high heels.
She had devoted the best part of a decade to finding Bin Laden and had become the SEALs’ go-to expert on intelligence matters about their target, he said.
And while her colleagues were only 60% sure their quarry was in the compound in Abbottabad, she told the SEAL she was 100% certain.
“I can’t give her enough credit, I mean, she, in my opinion, she kind of teed up this whole thing,” Matt Bissonnette said later.
The commando saw a very different side of her days later when they brought Bin Laden’s body back to their Afghan hangar. Having previously told Matt Bissonnette she didn’t want to see the body, “Jen” stayed at the back of the crowd as they unzipped the terrorist’s body bag.
She “looked pale and stressed and started crying.
“A couple of the SEALs put their arms around her and walked her over to the edge of the group to look at the body,” wrote Matt Bissonnette.
“She didn’t say anything . . . with tears rolling down her cheeks, I could tell it was taking a while for Jen to process.
“She’d spent half a decade tracking this man. And now there he was at her feet.”
Jen’s role in the operation passed largely unremarked when Matt Bissonnette’s book came out but now the new film has confirmed his estimation of her importance.
Although she remains active as a CIA analyst, it is believed Mark Boal, Bigelow’s screenwriter, was allowed to interview her at length. It has emerged that she is in her 30s and joined the CIA after leaving college and before the 9/11 attacks turned American security upside down.
According to the Washington Post, she worked in the CIA’s station in Islamabad, Pakistan, as a “targeter”, a role which involves finding people to recruit as spies or to obliterate in drone attacks.
But CIA insiders say she worked almost solely on finding Bin Laden for a decade. She was still in Pakistan when the hunt heated up after Barack Obama became President in 2008 and ordered a renewed effort to find him.
According to colleagues, the female agent was one of the first to advance the theory – apparently against the views of other CIA staff – that the key to finding Bin Laden lay in Al Qaeda’s courier network.
The agency was convinced Osama Bin Laden, who never used the phone, managed to communicate with his disparate organization without revealing his whereabouts by passing hand-delivered messages to trusted couriers.
The agent spent years pursuing the courier angle, and it was a hunch that proved spectacularly correct when the U.S. uncovered a courier known as Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti and tracked him back to a compound in the sleepy Pakistan town of Abbottabad. It was a stunning success for the dedicated agent, though she hardly endeared herself to her colleagues in the process.
CIA agent Maya, played by Jessica Chastain in the film Zero Dark Thirty, spent the best part of a decade to finding Bin Laden and became the SEALs’ go-to expert on intelligence matters about their target
As one might expect of a woman working in the largely male world of intelligence, colleagues stress she is no shrinking violet but a prickly workaholic with a reputation for clashing with anyone – even senior intelligence chiefs – who disagreed with her.
“She’s not Miss Congeniality, but that’s not going to find Osama Bin Laden,” a former colleague told the Washington Post.
Another added: “Do you know how many CIA officers are jerks? If that was a disqualifier, the whole National Clandestine Service would be gone.”
In the film, Maya is portrayed as a loner who has a “her-against-the-world” attitude and pummels superiors into submission by sheer force of will. CIA colleagues say the film’s depiction of her is spot-on.
If this is the case, then she shows little of the feminine tenderness that serves Carrie Mathison so well in Homeland and which Hollywood usually uses to soften female protagonists like Maya.
Instead, the film shows her happily colluding in the torture by water boarding of an Al Qaeda suspect.
And Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette reported how she had told him she wasn’t in favor of storming the Bin Laden compound but preferred to “just push the easy button and bomb it”. Given that the bombing option would almost certainly have killed the women and children the CIA knew were inside, her comment suggests a cold indifference to “civilian” casualties.
But then the real female agent is hardly your archetypal film heroine. She has reportedly been passed over for promotion since the Bin Laden raid, perhaps adding to her sense of grievance.
Although she was among a handful of CIA staff rewarded over the operation with the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the agency’s highest honor, dozens of other colleagues were given lesser gongs.
Fellow staff say this prompted her anger to boil over: she hit “reply all” to an email announcing the awards and added her own message which – according to one – effectively said: “You guys tried to obstruct me. You fought me. Only I deserve the award.”
Although colleagues say the intense attention she received from the film-makers has made many of them jealous, they are shocked she was passed over for promotion and merely given a cash bonus for her Bin Laden triumph.
She has also been moved within the CIA, reassigned to a new counter-terrorism role.
Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Oscar as director of the Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker, has said it was like being dealt a Royal Flush at poker when she discovered a woman at the heart of the story.
“The juicy thing about Maya was the surprise of it,” she said.
One thing is certain: The emotional cost of her achievement took its toll on her.
Matt Bissonnette recalls seeing her again as he and his comrades got on to a plane back to their main base at Bagram in Afghanistan.
She was sitting on the floor of the plane sobbing, “hugging her legs to her chest in the fetal position”.
Her eyes were “puffy and she seemed to be staring into the distance”. When he tried to reassure her that the mission had been a “100 per cent” success, she simply nodded and started crying again.
He put it down to a mixture of exhaustion and relief for a woman who had, with almost messianic zeal, dedicated her life to hunting down the architect of 9/11.