What's not much in dispute is that, despite the aspirations of "Zero Dark Thirty" to accuracy, it gets the interrogation scenes wrong. Boal has responded that the film is not a documentary.
The film shows CIA officers in a Hollywood idea of a tough interrogation, beating a detainee in a decrepit building, making him wear a dog collar and, on the spur of the moment, deciding to waterboard him.
According to a 2004 CIA inspector general report and other sources, the program was more methodical, which is not to say any less brutal. Each harsh technique was approved by Justice Department lawyers and briefed at the highest levels of President Bush's White House.
Three detainees were waterboarded in 2002 and 2003. They were strapped to gurneys and their medical conditions monitored. No dog collars were used, former officers say.
The movie also errs when it shows a detainee who had been waterboarded giving information about Al-Kuwaiti. One of the three waterboarded, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the purported mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, discussed the courier, U.S. officials have said. He denied Al-Kuwaiti was an Al Qaeda member. CIA officers found this telling because other detainees said he had an important role.
Feinstein, McCain and Levin say the detainee who provided crucial information about the courier in 2004, identified by U.S. officials as Hassan Ghul, did so before he was subjected to coercive interrogation techniques. He was never waterboarded, officials have said.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, suggested one way to get at the truth would be for Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats to release their report.
"False claims about the interrogation program are dangerous," he said, "in large part because there is a vacuum where there ought to be a public record."