Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden
|Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden|
Promotional poster for Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden
|Directed by||Greg Barker|
|Produced by||Passion Pictures,
|Based on||Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad
by Peter Bergen
|Music by||Philip Sheppard|
|Running time||100 minutes|
Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden is a 2013 documentary directed by Greg Barker that explores the CIA's investigation of Osama bin Laden starting from 1995 till his death in 2011. It was premiered on HBO on May 1, 2013, two years after the mission that killed bin Laden in May 2011. The documentary features narratives by many of the CIA analysts, operatives who worked over almost two decades understanding and then tracking bin Laden and also includes archival film footage across Washington, D.C., Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East. It also features extensive and rarely seen footage of Al-Qaeda training and propaganda videos, including digital suicide notes from various terrorists who later worked as suicide bombers.
On release, the documentary was noted as a "less Hollywood-ized version" of the film Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and appreciated for showcasing "the nitty-gritty" of decade-long search for Bin Laden and the CIA analysts' job. It was acknowledged for putting "a human face on the secret world of intelligence gathering". The documentary was selected for 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was part of U.S. Documentary Competition. Three CIA agents featured in the documentary; Marty Martin, Nada Bakos and Cindy Storer; also attended the discussion about the documentary after its premier in the festival.
The director of the film, Greg Barker, noted that it was difficult to trace down the individuals who worked for the CIA but did not have any exposure. He also mentioned that as the CIA did not have any approval over the content of the film. Interviewees had to make sure that they did not reveal any classified information.
- The Sisterhood
This section of the documentary interviews a crew of female CIA analysts for their involvement in tracing down Osama bin Laden. This includes Susan Hasler, Cindy Storer, Nada Bakos, Gina Bennett (Subject-matter expert for Al-Qaeda), and Barbara Sude (senior Al-Qaeda analyst for the CIA). It also features John E. McLaughlin who oversaw the CIA analysts and worked for staff training. The documentary mentions that the CIA started the Bin Laden unit in 1995 with the code name as "Alec Station".
- An Analytic Judgement
Cindy Storer discusses the analysis work and conclusions built around the early intelligence related to the Jihad movement and mentions that she wrote the CIA's first warning to then the President of the United States about bin Laden.
- A Declaration of War
This section of the documentary covers interviews with bin Laden by newsman Peter Bergen and cameraman Peter Arnett, who had declared a war against United States, and includes clips of the interviews. Storer and Mclaughlin of the CIA mention that though the intelligence agency paid enough attention to Bin Laden's attack warnings, it failed to determine the date and timing of planned attacks. Storer notes that it was a "difficult" task for Al-Qaeda being a "clandestine organization".
- The Blame
Storer discusses the criticism and accusations of negligence made against the CIA by the United States Congress. The documentary also mentions an internal CIA investigation that cast blame on some of the original members of "Alec Station" for their failure to inform the FBI which was also investigating Al-Qaeda. Later, former FBI agent Ali Soufan narrates his experience of interrogating bin Laden's bodyguard.
Mclaughlin mentions the "World Wide Attack Matrix", a war declared by the U.S. against Al-Qaeda. Phill Mudd, then deputy of the CIA's counter-terrorism center, notes the CIA's task was to understand Al-Qaeda and then to "dismantle" it. He also discusses changes in "Alec Station" following the 9/11 attacks. Jose Rodriguez, who ran the CIA's counter-terrorism center, and Marty Martin, who ran spies in the Middle East and who led the CIA's war on Al-Qaeda, discuss their involvement in the project. Martin describes how the CIA became "more aggressive" with its changed "rule-book". Rodriguez identifies the CIA's focus on capturing Abu Zubaydah and White House approval for "enhanced interrogations" involving twelve "defined" techniques.
One of the CIA agents indicates that some of the original members of "Alec Station" were moved to become "targeters" for bin Laden and were sent to war zones with elite military units. The documentary then interviews Stanley A. McChrystal who commanded U.S. special operations units and Michael Mullen who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about their roles in the project.
- The Breakthrough
Noting Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's interaction with bin Laden and the terrorist leader's association with Hassan Ghul, CIA agents then cite the importance of Abu Ahmed Al-Kuwaiti, a pseudonym for bin Laden's courier and his only point of contact to the outside world.
- End Game
Michael Hayden who became director of the CIA in 2006 notes his involvement in tracing bin Laden's courier and the person behind the pseudonym, Ibrahim Saeed. Joby Warrick who was covering the CIA for The Washington Post mentions Humam al-Balawi who was a doctor who treated the number two leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri and his videotapes from meetings with Zawahiri. al-Balawi was later shown with his video tape before killing himself in a suicide bombing at a CIA post, killing several CIA agents, including Jennifer Matthews.
The documentary ends with the video footage of bin Laden before his capture and Stanley A. McChrystal's question to American people, "Why is the enemy the enemy?"
- "The Sisterhood" agents
- Susan Hasler
- Cindy Storer
- Nada Bakos
- Gina Bennett
- Barbara Sude
The documentary received generally positive feedback on release for "being well researched". The Mother Jones magazine noted that the documentary has "the pulse of a Michael Mann thriller". Mike Hale reviewed the documentary for The New York Times and appreciated its efforts to let people know about the female CIA analysts working on the mission. The Wall Street Journal noted that the narratives of various CIA agents and operatives who worked for over two decades for identifying Islamic radicals and tracking terrorists made the documentary "fascinating". It also mentioned that the documentary describes "the passion, the anger, the regrets and the fearful determination" of the CIA agents with "the loneliest profession on earth". TV Guide described the documentary as a "less Hollywood-ized version" of the film Zero Dark Thirty (2012). Further, it also noted that the documentary "goes beyond the actual raid", explores the CIA's culture of intelligence gathering and features various analysts and operatives speaking in detail.
The documentary was often compared with the film Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and the television film Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden (2012) and also criticized for having "feminist CIA propaganda". It was also said to have failed while giving the justification of claims made by various CIA agents. It was criticized for being "unclear" and "frustrating viewing experience".
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