Her real-life counterpart joined the agency before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, officials said, and served as a targeter — a position that involves finding targets to recruit as spies or for lethal drone strikes — in the CIA’s station in Islamabad, Pakistan.
She was in that country when the search for bin Laden, after years of being moribund, suddenly heated up. After Obama took office, CIA operatives reexamined several potential trails, including al-Qaeda’s use of couriers to hand-deliver messages to and from bin Laden.
“After this went right, there were a lot of people trying to take credit,” the former intelligence official said. But the female targeter “was one of the people from very early on pushing this” courier approach.
Lashing out in an e-mail
This spring, she was among a handful of employees given the agency’s Distinguished Intelligence Medal, its highest honor except for those recognizing people who have come under direct fire. But when dozens of others were given lesser awards, the female officer lashed out.
“She hit ‘reply all’ ” to an e-mail announcement of the awards, a second former CIA official said. The thrust of her message, the former official said, was: “You guys tried to obstruct me. You fought me. Only I deserve the award.”
Over the past year, she 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.
Officials said the woman was given a cash bonus for her work on the bin Laden mission and has since moved on to a new counterterrorism assignment. They declined to say why the promotion was blocked.
The move stunned the woman’s former associates, despite her reputation for clashing with colleagues.
“Do you know how many CIA officers are jerks?” the former official said. “If that was a disqualifier, the whole National Clandestine Service would be gone.”
The targeter’s contacts with the “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmakers have also been examined as part of an inquiry, apparently by the CIA inspector general, into the information that agency officials shared with outsiders about the bin Laden raid.
Internal e-mails released this year under Freedom of Information Act requests showed how the agency set up repeated visits for Boal, allowing him to tour the “vault” where the raid was planned and even see a mock-up of the Abbottabad compound.
Former CIA officials said agency enthusiasm for the film has been tempered as details about it have surfaced, including the fact that the movie opens with a harrowing waterboarding scene in a secret CIA prison.
Joby Warrick contributed to this report.