A 12.22 N.Y. Times story by Scott Shane calls into question a statement by Acting CIA director Michael J. Morell that Zero Dark Thirty “exaggerates” the role of coercive interrogations — torture — in obtaining information about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. “While Mr. Morell’s account is close to that given last year by Leon E. Panetta when he was C.I.A. director,” Shane writes, “other agency officials who served under President George W. Bush have put greater emphasis on the usefulness of the harsh interrogation methods.

“This year, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who oversaw the agency’s counterterrorism operations when the methods were in use, wrote in The Washington Post that the hunt for Bin Laden “stemmed from information obtained from hardened terrorists who agreed to tell us some (but not all) of what they knew after undergoing harsh but legal interrogation methods.”

“And Mr. Bush’s last C.I.A. director, Michael V. Hayden, wrote last year in The Wall Street Journal that “a crucial component” of the information that led to Bin Laden “was information provided by three C.I.A. detainees, all of whom had been subjected to some form of enhanced interrogation.”

The failure to accept ZD30‘s clearly ambiguous portrayal of torture — i.e., it was possibly effective but perhaps not — is mostly a politically correct, liberal-circle-jerk phenomenon. The film simply says that torture was in play during the Bush era and that maybe it helped in some slight or residual way. Rodriguez and Hayden were invested in the Bush-era applications of torture and so they’re looking to justify it, but how likely is it that they’re flat-out lying?

Joe and Jane Popcorn won’t give a damn about this issue, I can tell you that much.