Zero Dark Thirty depicts the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man. It begins with a black display with emergency dispatch calls from the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. The main character, Maya, joined the CIA after high school and was committed to finding Osama Bin Laden. Maya was in search of Bin Laden before 911, and his attacks on home soil that sparked a much grander effort by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and from the assist of nations around the world.
The dark screen then fades into a closed room with an Al Qaeda detainee as CIA agents enter the room at an undisclosed location, known as a black site two years after the aerial attacks in New York. Another main character by the name of Dan accompanies Maya to coercive interrogation techniques to elicit important information about Bin Laden and his location.
Coercive techniques they apply to the Al Qaeda member, Ammar, consist being beaten while his hands are tied to the ceiling, humiliated by having to crawl naked in a dog leash, sleep deprivation caused by the loud heavy metal music, waterboardings (simulation of drowning by placing a rage on the face and pouring water), and locked into a wooden crate.
I found these methods of torture harsh and inhumane. This was one of the many results that happened after the president’s response to the terrist attacks, “President George W. Bush outlined three basic military objectives. First, he wanted the U.S. military to enter Afghanistan and destroy all of the terrorists’ sanctuaries.
Next, they needed to dismantle the Al Qaeda organization and incapacitate Taliban military capabilities. Finally, for his dastardly strikes against America, the president wanted bin Laden brought to justice.” (Chipman 168) The movie emphasizes the importance of torture used to acquire information about Al Qaeda. The CIA agents come up with the ingenious plan to bluff to the detainee. They make Ammar believe he provided valuable information about a future attack while he was sleep deprived. Not knowing that he in fact did not reveal any information he submits to the agents and provides them with the war-name (non-birth name often used as an alias) of Bin Laden’s most trusted courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.
In a different black site in Gdansk, Poland another detainee in 2005 describes Ahmed as the messenger between Abu Faraj al-Libbi and Bin Laden. This information ensures that if they find Ahmed then they will be close to Bin Laden. Pakistan intelligence captures Faraj and Maya gets the opportunity to interrogate him. Unfortunately the detainee completely denies knowing Abu Ahmed, despite Maya viewed clips of at least twenty other detainees that verified Ahmed’s identity as a courier. During this time the CIA had to go a transition the ways of torture due to the change of presidents. Around this time there is London bus and subway bombings executed by Al Qaeda members. As the terrorist attacks intensify for CIA agents, Maya finds herself in the middle of it all.
In 2008 while having dinner with her friend Jennifer Ehle at a Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan a car bomb explodes at the entrance. During this time president Barrack Obama begins to enforce that torture should not be used as a method for getting information. Maya’s friend Ehle receives an inside video footage of Al Qaeda from a doctor looking to help the CIA for rewards. Ehle is ecstatic and plans to meet the doctor at a neutral territory Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. The guards decide to stand down for the doctor at the entrance to not intimidate him this results in the car bomb entering the base and is shortly blown up killing seven agents. Shortly after the news of her friends tragic death Maya views video footage from a detainee the Abu Ahmed was buried in Afghanistan in 2001.
Abu Ahmed’s real name is finally found after reviewing the CIA system again. His name had appeared as Ibrahim Sayeed in a watch list sent from the Moroccans after 911. Maya does further research on Abu Ahmed and discovers him and two of his brothers went to Afghanistan and that it must be one of his brothers that died and not Abu Ahmed because there was no further evidence of his death. Dan meets up with an “old friend” to acquire information on Sayeed, but this friend doesn’t see this as a friendship so Dan gets him a Lamborghini in exchange for information leading to Sayeed.
They discover Sayeeed’s cell phone number but have a lot of difficulty tri-angulating the phones location because it’s always used in a different location at various impredictable times. After several days of searching for him on the road the get a hold of the cell phone signal before Sayeed removes the battery. CIA follows his white sports utility van two hours back to a compound with three floors less than a mile away from Pakistani forces. The compound draws suspicion because it has sixteen foot walls surrounding it, no telephone lines, it was mostly self-sustained, with tinted windows, and gated doors.
CIA surveys the compound for several months and discovers a male that lives in the upper levels that never leaves the compound nor is in plain view. They consider all their decisions and decide a marines operation will have the highest probability of taking out Bin Laden and identifying him as the founder of Al Qaeda. After debriefing the president, Obama decides to go through with the mission at 12:30 a.m. on May 2, 2011. The team to use in the mission is the Navy SEALs, which I thought was an excellent decision because “Today’s SEALs are generalists.
Talented and versatile, they conduct a wide range of special operations in a maritime environment.” Everything goes through as planned, except for the malfunction of one of the helicoptors resulting in zero deaths. The mission resulted in the death of Bin Laden and and hundreds of gigabytes of memory pertaining to Al Qaeda mostly written by Bin Ladin himself. Although Al Qaeda is still a threat, the United States managed to cease most of their terrorism by taking out Bin Laden.
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Chipman, Don D. “Osama Bin Laden And Guerrilla War.” Studies In Conflict & Terrorism 26.3 (2003): 163-170. America: History and Life with Full Text. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.
Couch, Dick. “Special Ops Forces, Seals, And The Bin Laden Takedown.” Naval History 26.1 (2012): 22-23. America: History and Life with Full Text. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.
Ilardi, Gaetano Joe. “The 9/11 Attacks—A Study Of Al Qaeda’s Use Of Intelligence And Counterintelligence.” Studies In Conflict & Terrorism
32.3 (2009): 171-187. America: History and Life with Full Text. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.