Access Hollywood: Pentagon, CIA leaked Bin Laden raid info to filmmakers
The Judicial Watch group has released almost 300 pages of Pentagon and CIA documents indicating that the Obama administration and the Department of Defense worked in tight collaboration with Oscar-winning filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal (the director and screenwriter of "The Hurt Locker").
The veteran moviemaking team is shooting a movie based on the covert operation that tracked down and assassinated Osama bin Laden, dubbed the Zero Dark Thirty.
Judicial Watch says it obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information Act, which is often used to force agencies to release some classified information.
“These documents, which took nine months and a federal lawsuit to disgorge from the Obama administration, show that politically-connected filmmakers were given extraordinary and secret access to bin Laden raid information, including the identity of a Seal Team Six leader,” Judicial Watch’s statement reads.
Most of the names and locations in the released batch were redacted, but the contents of the transcripts indicate that the filmmakers were allowed to visit several highly classified facilities, including “The Vault” at CIA headquarters, where some of the planning for the bin Laden raid took place.
Bigelow and Boal have also met with one of the planners of the operation. The documents show that Pentagon intelligence chief Michael Vickers stressed to the crew that the identity of the SEAL team leader and the fact that he worked as a consultant should not be revealed, because he should not be “talking out of school.”
A page from the transcript from background interview with Mark Boal
and Katherine Bigelow dated July, 15, 2011. CLICK TO ENLARGE
(Mike Vickers – MV, Mark Boal – MB, Kathryn Bigelow – KB, Bob Mehal – BM)
A transcript of a July 14, 2011 meeting indicates that Boal also discussed the film with White House National Security Council official Denis McDonough and chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan.
According to the emails, the visits to the CIA and Pentagon were arranged by a Democratic lobbyist, the Glover Park Group.
Neither the Pentagon nor the CIA has denied the report and the authenticity of the data released by Judicial Watch. However, both agencies have issued statements saying that they have a standard practice of dealing with filmmakers which does not include sharing classified data.
“The protection of national security equities is always paramount in any engagement with the entertainment industry," said CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood, as cited by Reuters.
"The Department of Defense, as well as other agencies and departments, regularly engage with the entertainment industry to inform projects ranging from books to documentaries to feature films,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little. "Our engagement on these projects was driven by a desire to inform.”
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor confirmed that the administration's officials are doing their best to accommodate the press and filmmakers and to make sure their facts are correct, but added that they never discuss classified information.
“The information that the White House provided about the bin Laden raid was focused on the President’s role in that decision making process,” he said as cited by The Huffington Post. “The same information was given to the White House press corps.”
The chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), has for months questioned the “extremely close, unprecedented, and potentially dangerous collaboration” between top US officials and Hollywood. On Wednesday, King voiced his concerns about the roles of the CIA, Department of Defense and the White House in this movie project in a letter sent to Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers and Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell.
The film about the May 2011 raid on bin Laden's Pakistan compound was initially planned to be released several weeks before the November 6 election. As a result, the media rushed to accuse the administration of trying to play the bin Laden card to ensure Obama’s re-election. As a result of the media stir, the release date of Zero Dark Thirty has been pushed back to December 2012.
White House reporter Josh Gerstein has told RT that it is not surprising that the Department of Defense is collaborating with the film industry. What is a surprise for him is the fact that top secret information has been released.
“They [the White House] were just so eager to get this story up, because they’d thought it would be such a beneficial story for President Obama and would help change the narrative on national security from democrats being weak on national security and can’t be trusted on issues like Guantanamo, to a triumphant president that has killed bin Laden, something that his predecessor was not able to do” says Gerstein.