Did the CIA shadow-edit Zero Dark Thirty?

Before he became a screenwriter, Mark Boal was a journalist. When journalists work on a a complicated story involving national security, it is not uncommon for them to give the CIA or another agency a full briefing about the story beforehand, both to ensure the accuracy of certain assertions, or to test them, giving the subject of the piece a chance to push back against interpretations that are incorrect, to, of course, provide last-minute spin to make themselves look favorable, but often, to clarify complicated issues and add nuance.

As a writer, I've done this with several stories. When I write long-form pieces about the Secret Service, I voluntarily provide them in advance with the passages that involve descriptions of protective methodology. That's because I don't want to publish anything that could make it harder for Secret Service agents to protect their charges. Most of the changes the Service suggests are minor, and when I've disagreed with them about the sensitivity of a method, or have shown it to be described elsewhere in the public domain, I stand my ground, and I make the final decision. It's common sense to me.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
Marc Ambinder

Marc Ambinder is TheWeek.com's editor-at-large. He is the author, with D.B. Grady, of The Command and Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry. Marc is also a contributing editor for The Atlantic and GQ. Formerly, he served as White House correspondent for National Journal, chief political consultant for CBS News, and politics editor at The Atlantic. Marc is a 2001 graduate of Harvard. He is married to Michael Park, a corporate strategy consultant, and lives in Los Angeles.