by Uttara Choudhury Dec 18, 2012 08:55 IST
New York: The Abbottabad compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was hiding may never have been found if it weren’t for the efforts of one young, female CIA agent, reveals a new film which explores the decade-long hunt for the al Qaeda leader based on true events.
Sadly, the real-life female CIA agent in her thirties, who is credited with tracking down Osama bin Laden, was passed over for promotion amid widespread jealousy among her mostly male colleagues over her part in taking down the world’s most wanted man. But The Washington Post said the woman did receive a cash bonus for her excellent intelligence work.
Now her role in hunting down bin Laden has been immortalized in Zero Dark Thirty by director Kathryn Bigelow, who is the first woman to win an Oscar for best director, for the 2008 film Hurt Locker.
Bigelow and writer Mark Boal were given extensive access to high-ranking government officials, as well as to the woman this movie is based on. The action-thriller releases on 19 December. It has emerged as an Oscar front-runner after picking up early awards from Hollywood groups.
The film stars Jessica Chastain as a CIA officer called "Maya" who uses intelligence from brutal interrogations and electronic surveillance. Maya’s theory is that bin Laden can’t use a cell phone or the Internet for fear of being tracked, so he must be relying on a courier network. Maya tracked down known couriers in Afghanistan which led to the subsequent discovery of the Abbottabad compound.
Through deft computer work and clues from an old interrogation video Maya stumbled on Abu Ahmed, who, at regular intervals, drove a white SUV from Peshawar to a house in Abbottabad.
The New Yorker captures Maya’s role in the bin Laden hunt; “Maya’s investigation has been going on for years, but, as shaped by Bigelow and Boal, the hunt feels like one continuous surge of energy, colored by anguish and fury. At first, no one takes Maya seriously. But her demands on the agency’s resources become increasingly insistent, culminating in an enraged moment in which — as Chastain’s neck, engorged, swells mightily — she threatens the CIA station head with exposure for incompetence if he doesn’t give her what she needs.”
“That a woman is leading the charge is almost as surprising to the Americans as it is to the Muslim prisoners. After all the female avengers of the past fifteen years — Uma Thurman and Angelina Jolie kicking men in the ego and other places — American movies have at last produced a woman clothed, like Athena, in willful strength and intellectual armor,” said The New Yorker.
In many ways the vivid scene capturing Maya’s frustration with the CIA station head explains why the real-life “Maya” fought with her CIA colleagues over credit for the Bin Laden mission. The Washington Post reported that after being given the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest honor except for those who came under direct fire, the CIA agent lashed out in a “reply all” email to dozens of other recipients.
The Post attributed a former agency official as characterizing the email’s message as, “You guys tried to obstruct me. You fought me. Only I deserve the award.” Well, this is one kick-ass female CIA agent with sharp elbows who doesn’t mind socking it to the bureaucratic obstructionists in the CIA.
Actress Chastain told Reuters in an interview that the woman she portrays is still active. The agent is now in her thirties, remains undercover and while receiving the agency's highest medal, was denied a promotion that would have raised her civil service rank from GS-13 to GS-14, bringing an additional $16,000 in annual pay.
Perhaps, Zero Dark Thirty which is tipped for Oscar glory may shame the CIA old boys’ club to give her that promotion.
Watch the trailer of the movie:
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