‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Is Very Accurate, Right Down To Maya

While the story of the raid in which bin Laden was killed is widely known in quite a lot of detail, the timeline leading up to it is not, since much of it is classified. That makes it hard to answer the question of how accurate Zero Dark Thirty is, since most of the movie focuses on the intelligence work leading up to the discovery of bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad. But the last part of the film, which shows the raid itself, is quite accurate, right down to including a dog in the raiding party. A lot is obviously left out, but what is shown matches up with accounts in the news.


So what about the bulk of the movie: the intelligence-gathering aspect? Few people know the answer to that for sure, but it looks like it’s also pretty accurate. The character of Maya is based on a real CIA analyst around the same age, who has the same give-’em-hell attitude, who worked on catching bin Laden for almost a decade, and who was the lone champion for exploiting his courier network. In fact, the Washington Post reported that “Maya’s” combative personality cost her a promotion from GS-13 to GS-14 — even though most CIA insiders agree that the attitude is not only needed to be successful at her kind of job, but also that it’s not exactly rare inside the agency. Still, she got a cash bonus for catching bin Laden, and the CIA’s highest medal, not involving combat. But, a few other agents also got other awards, so then this happened:

“She hit ‘reply all’ ” to an e-mail announcement of the awards, a second former CIA official said. The thrust of her message, the former official said, was: “You guys tried to obstruct me. You fought me. Only I deserve the award.” — from The Washington Post article

And that sounds exactly like Maya. (The agent’s real name is obviously something else.) The writer and director based the movie on first-hand accounts: they talked to a lot of people at the CIA, including the woman Maya is based on, so they probably got a decent reading of her. Given that they got to know her well enough to portray her personality accurately, it stands to reason that the rest of what she told them — the history of the mission — is also accurate.

See also:

From Washington Post

Comments are closed.