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Sundance Review: The women who have the Navy Seals’ backs

by on January 25, 2013


It might come as a surprise that the CIA agents who tracked down many of Al Qaeda’s top leaders, including Osama Bin Laden, to be captured or killed were a group of women who look more like your kid’s second-grade teacher than female leads in a spy thriller.

Known in the CIA as the “Sisterhood,” a team of female intelligence analysts have worked for two decades to piece together shards of information from around the globe to not only track individual terrorists leaders, but to get to know how they think and react.

Their story, including their scapegoating by Congress after the 9/11 attacks, is the subject of Greg Barker’s documentary “Manhunt.”

As one of the team explains, “Women make the best analysts,” because they are better than men at seeing patterns in a sea of ambiguous information gathered from hundreds of sources. They were often criticized by their male superiors for being obsessed with their work and emotional.

“How can you do something like this without being passionate?” says one of the team. “We were trying to protect the United States. It’s a big burden.”

To make them more effective after 9/11, the analysts were teamed with field agents “down range”—in combat zones. A member of the Sisterhood was killed by a suicide bombing. But soon their CIA colleagues were referring to their amalgamation of information and intuition “magic.”

A team of Navy Seals landed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and gunned down Osama Bin Laden. But it wouldn’t have been possible without the Sisterhood that painstakingly tracked his favorite courier across the Middle East.

If you’ve seen “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Manhunt” is the true-life prequel. You’ll be seeing more of “Manhunter” this year.

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