MANHUNT

About For more than two decades, he was the target of intense scrutiny, with an entire unit at the CIA dedicated to tracking his every move and trying to determine what violence he might perpetrate. When 9/11 confirmed Osama bin Laden’s intentions, these same analysts and operatives were now blamed for failing to prevent it, though they had spent years warning about the possibility of an attack. An official selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, MANHUNT tells the remarkable true story of the two-decade search for the world’s most notorious terrorist. Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi who had taken up the cause of the Muslim jihad and helped establish the secret terror network al-Qaeda, was one of America’s greatest threats. From the early 1990s he was the obsession of a small group of CIA analysts and operatives who were determined to stop him before he launched a strike on U.S. soil. MANHUNT features testimony and recollections – many shared for the first time – from the CIA officers who labored to destroy bin Laden’s terrorist organization and eventually kill the man himself. Although audiences may know some of the story through fictionalized films such as “Zero Dark Thirty,” this real-life spy thriller includes behind-the-scenes accounts from actual analysts, targeters and operatives, who testify to the disagreements, frustrations, tragedies and triumphs that marked this fascinating and painful chapter in American history. The first part of MANHUNT chronicles the frustration of many in the CIA who first targeted bin Laden in the early 1990s and felt their intelligence was falling on deaf ears. The film draws on the recollections of a group of female analysts known as The Sisterhood, the first officers to pinpoint intelligence that proved not only the existence of al-Qaeda, but evidence that Osama bin Laden was its leader. These dedicated analysts – officers such as Cindy Storer, Nada Bakos, Susan Hasler and Barbara Sude – began with a blank slate and worked deliberately to piece together disparate fragments of information to get a clearer picture of al-Qaeda. “I think women make fantastic analysts,” says Nada Bakos, a CIA veteran turned lead targeter, whose job was to capture or kill senior al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq and who tells her story on camera for the first time in MANHUNT. “We have patience, perseverance, and we’re not always looking for the sexy payoff immediately.” Susan Hasler, who was in charge of preparing the CIA’s daily brief to the president, notes, “At the time, the people who had all of the deep expertise in al-Qaeda were women.” As terrorist attacks against America’s interests abroad increased pre-9/11, The Sisterhood was convinced that bin Laden headed al-Qaeda’s shadowy network of dedicated Muslim jihadists from dozens of countries specializing in a new kind of guerilla terrorism. However, many in The Sisterhood were advised that they were spending “too much time on bin Laden” and told not to be so “emotional” or “passionate” about their work. The Sisterhood began to gain more traction with superiors when bin Laden’s actions grew deadlier, and his threats against the United States more explicit. Among the film’s most gripping scenes is Peter Bergen’s account of filming his TV interview with bin Laden, the first-ever granted to western television, in which he stated his intention to attack the United States. Produced by Bergen with correspondent Peter Arnett, the piece aired on CNN in March 1997. Although little notice was taken at the time, analysts and operatives at the CIA recognized it as part of a consistent pattern. MANHUNT offers extensive, rarely seen footage of al-Qaeda training and propaganda videos, including digital suicide notes from terrorists who had dedicated their lives to jihad, that CIA officers studied closely on a daily basis. Because government and military leadership bases its actions on multiple levels of intelligence and likes to operate with a high degree of certainty, it was difficult for the CIA analysts and operatives tracking al-Qaeda to get the attention of those in command. As they issued a series of daily briefings in 2000 and 2001, consistently warning that bin Laden was determined to attack inside the United States, frustration grew within the CIA.

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