Congressman Calls for Investigation Into White House Aid to Bin Laden Raid Film

Is the Obama Administration inappropriately disclosing classified data to movie producers in the hopes of getting a film about the killing of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden released before the 2012 election? That is the question that Congressman Peter King (R-NY) is asking after word got out that the White House is giving inside information about the military raid that killed bin Laden earlier this year to the creators of the Oscar-winning film "Hurt Locker."

"This alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history," King wrote in a letter addressed to officials at the CIA and the Department of Defense which asked for full details on the government's involvement with the film. The Defense Department acknowledged the collaboration in an interview with the Wall Street Journal:

Col. David Lapan, the Pentagon spokesman, said that the Defense Department was providing assistance to director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, the team leading the bin Laden project for Sony Pictures. But Col. Lapan said that no classified information would be provided to the filmmakers.

“It is the violation of the law to provide classified information” to people not cleared to receive it, Col. Lapan said.

Getting an accurate view of history is not the motivation of the White House, according to liberal New York Times reporter Maureen Dowd who broke the news earlier this week, saying that it is part of an Obama campaign "proxy" strategy to make the president look tough:

The White House is also counting on the Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal big-screen version of the killing of Bin Laden to counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual. The Sony film by the Oscar-winning pair who made “The Hurt Locker” will no doubt reflect the president’s cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds. Just as Obamaland was hoping, the movie is scheduled to open on Oct. 12, 2012 — perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher.

The moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration.

It was clear that the White House had outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood when Boal got welcomed to the upper echelons of the White House and the Pentagon and showed up recently — to the surprise of some military officers — at a C.I.A. ceremony celebrating the hero Seals.


Now that the film has been confirmed officially by the Defense Department, it's worth recalling NBer Tom Blumer's previous post which made the point that the same White House that was reluctant to offend Muslims back when Osama was killed seems to have no problem now with a "cinematic end-zone dance in front of the entire world."

Full text of the King letter is below:

The Honorable Gordon S. Heddell
Inspector General
Department of Defense
400 Army Navy Drive
Arlington, VA 22202-4704

The Honorable David Buckley
Inspector General
Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, DC 20505

Dear Inspectors General Heddell and Buckley:

I write to express concern regarding ongoing leaks of classified information regarding sensitive military operations. As reported in a New York Times column on August 6, 2011, Administration officials may have provided filmmakers with details of the raid that successfully killed Usama bin Laden (UBL). According to that report, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. and movie director Kathryn Bigelow received “top-level access to the most classified mission in history” to produce a movie about the raid, due for release in October 2012. Reportedly, a Hollywood filmmaker also attended a CIA ceremony in honor of the team that carried out the raid.

The Administration’s first duty in declassifying material is to provide full reporting to Congress and the American people, in an effort to build public trust through transparency of government. In contrast, this alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history.

Special Operations Command’s Admiral Eric Olson stated that the May 1st raid “was successful because nobody talked about it before, and if we want to preserve this capability nobody better talk about it after,” and that his operators’ “15 minutes of fame lasted about 14 minutes too long. They want to get back in the shadows.” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen stated that “It is time to stop talking,” as “We have gotten to a point where we are close to jeopardizing the precision capability that we have, and we can’t afford to do that. This fight isn’t over.” Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that “Too many people in too many places are talking too much about this operation, and when so much detail is available it makes that both more difficult and riskier” for such missions in the future.

Leaks of classified information regarding the bin Laden raid have already resulted, according to a June 15, 2011 article in the Washington Post, in the arrests of Pakistanis who were believed by local authorities to have assisted the CIA with the May 1st raid. Further participation by JSOC and the Agency in making a film about the raid is bound to increase such leaks, and undermine these organizations’ hard-won reputations as “quiet professionals” − reputations important for their continued operational success. And, the success of these organizations is vital to our continued homeland security.

Therefore, I request an investigation and classified briefing regarding this matter from the Defense Department’s and CIA’s Inspectors General, including but not limited to the following:

  • What consultations, if any, occurred between members of the Executive Office of the President, and Department of Defense and/or CIA officials, regarding the advisability of providing Hollywood executives with access to covert military operators and clandestine CIA officers to discuss the UBL raid?
  • Will a copy of this film be submitted to the military and CIA for pre-publication review, to determine if special operations tactics, techniques and procedures, or Agency intelligence sources and methods, would be revealed by its release?
  • How was the attendance of filmmakers at a meeting with special operators and Agency officers at CIA Headquarters balanced against those officers’ duties to maintain their covers? How will cover concerns be addressed going forward?
  • What steps did the Administration take to ensure that no special operations tactics, techniques, and procedures were compromised during those meetings?
  • To the extent possible to determine, how many human intelligence sources and how many Agency intelligence methods have been compromised due to leaks about the May 1st raid? What effects have these compromises had on the CIA’s collection capabilities? Will Agency participation in a film about the bin Laden raid add to or exacerbate the effects of these compromises?
If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Matthew McCabe, Senior Counsel for the Committee on Homeland Security, at (202) 226-8417. Thank you for your time and consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

PETER T. KING
Chairman
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013