NBC's Lauer Cites CIA 'Torture' Scenes in Bin Laden Movie, Asks Whether 'Ends Justified the Means'

During a segment on Thursday's NBC Today on the upcoming film about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty, co-host Matt Lauer wondered if scenes depicting "brutal interrogations" of terror suspects would make movie-goers feel guilty: "It's inevitable people are going to sit in the movie theater...and when they see the scenes of torture, they're going to ask themselves if they think it was justified, if the ends justified the means." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Turning to director Kathryn Bigelow, Lauer pressed: "Do you want to make a political statement with this movie?" Bigelow replied: "Well, I think the film doesn't have an agenda. I think it just shows the story as – you know, the story of the greatest man hunt in history. And that's part of that history." Lauer urged: "But do you want people to discuss that topic more? Whether these kind of enhanced interrogation techniques are justified?"

Talking to actor Jason Clarke, who plays a CIA interrogator in the film, Lauer bemoaned: "...you are conducting interrogations, brutal interrogations, of terror suspects, that include waterboarding and putting dog collars on these suspects and, you know, exposing them in front of other people. How do you even prepare to do something like that?"

At the top of the segment, Lauer mentioned some of the controversy surrounding the film:

I mean, before this movie was even close to being finished, there was some controversy. Peter King came out, the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and said that he wanted an investigation from the CIA and the Department of Defense to find out whether you guys were given classified information in the researching for this movie. And a lot of people were very concerned about that. So let's ask, did you get classified information from the administration in preparing for this movie?

Producer Mark Boal dismissed such concerns: "No. I mean, we did a lot of homework, as – as I hope is evidenced on the screen when you see the movie. And I hope people go see the movie and judge for themselves. But, you know, it's an election year and people say things in that process....I think people will see that we didn't really come with any agenda at all."


Here is a transcript of the December 6 exchange:

8:35AM ET

LAUER: And we're back now at 8:35 with a new movie called Zero Dark Thirty. It's the story of the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the elite team of operatives who worked to track him down.

(...)

LAUER: And let's talk about – I mean, before this movie was even close to being finished, there was some controversy. Peter King came out, the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and said that he wanted an investigation from the CIA and the Department of Defense to find out whether you guys were given classified information in the researching for this movie. And a lot of people were very concerned about that. So let's ask, did you get classified information from the administration in preparing for this movie?

MARK BOAL: No. I mean, we did a lot of homework, as – as I hope is evidenced on the screen when you see the movie. And I hope people go see the movie and judge for themselves. But, you know, it's an election year and people say things in that process. And now that we have a movie that is actually going to be in theaters soon, I think people will see that we didn't really come with any agenda at all.

(...)

LAUER: Jason, we meet you early in this movie and it's tough. I mean, you are a CIA caseworker and you are conducting interrogations, brutal interrogations, of terror suspects, that include waterboarding and putting dog collars on these suspects and, you know, exposing them in front of other people. How do you even prepare to do something like that?

JASON CLARKE: Well, as an actor, you just throw yourself into it. I mean, loved the way that, you know, Kathryn and Mark just threw us straight into the world of these people that we follow, you know, the people that are doing the job. And as an actor, I just – I wanted to do justice to, you know, the men and women that served this story. And you know, in this story that just touched so many people in the world and everybody feels they own part of.

LAUER: In one of the early confrontations or discussions you have with a terror suspect, you say to him, bluntly you say, "I'm not your friend, I'm not a nice guy. And you lie to me, I'm going to hurt you." It's inevitable people are going to sit in the movie theater, Kathryn, and when they see the scenes of torture, they're going to ask themselves if they think it was justified, if the ends justified the means. Do you want to make a political statement with this movie?

KATHRYN BIGELOW: Well, I think the film doesn't have an agenda. I think it just shows the story as – you know, the story of the greatest man hunt in history. And that's part of that history. And so we needed to, you know, basically show all the pieces of that puzzle. And so that's-
 
LAUER: But do you want people to discuss that topic more? Whether these kind of enhanced interrogation techniques are justified?

BOAL: It's a pretty controversial – I think it's a pretty controversial topic already. And I think we're aware of that controversy. And we're not trying to score points in it. But hopefully people judge for themselves. And the people that I've spoken to that have seen the movie have said it's kind of an edge-of-your-seat thrilling film. So, that's not bad.

BIGELOW: And my hope is people will see the movie, enjoy the movie, and judge for themselves.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC