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The fake vaccination scheme absent from the bin Laden hunt debates

The fraught debate around "Zero Dark Thirty" has largely focused on whether the film justifies torture in suggesting that the CIA gleaned information relevant to the hunt for Osama bin Laden through torturing detainees. The fact that torture did not provide significant leads in the hunt is one important thing. The fact that the CIA profligately tortured under the assumption that it might is quite another.

A central point the movie raises is that the hunt for bin Laden was considered an unquestionable political good. (It still is: were it not, the depiction in a film of bin Laden's death arising from the fruits of horrific torture could not be seen as justifying the torture). There's a telling, underdiscussed scene in the middle of the sprawling epic in which the protagonist Maya threatens her CIA boss when he refuses to dedicate more resources to her bin Laden hunt efforts. She says she will go public and tell Congress that he had derailed the search for the world's most-wanted terrorist. She essentially asks "Do you want to be that guy?" He gives in to Maya's request, knowing that anything but full dedication to catching bin Laden in the public eye would be political suicide.

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