Report: DoD Official Leaked “Restricted” Information to “Zero Dark Thirty” Filmmakers

Updated

McClatchy Newspapers’ Washington bureau reports that the Pentagon’s inspector general has concluded that a Defense Department official leaked the name of U.S. Special Operations Command officer who helped plan the raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan to the filmmakers of “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Michael Vickers, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, was interviewed by screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow in July, 2011, in which he identified special forces planner as someone who could be made available to the filmmakers.

Vickers’ “leak” actually has been known for some time. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the conservative org Judicial Watch, the Pentagon in May released a transcript of the filmmakers’ interview with Vickers, but redacted the name of the special forces planner. Updated: In court documents, the government has argued that it could withhold the name from disclosure for privacy reasons and under an exemption given to the Pentagon. They cite a provision of federal statute allowing exemptions for “personal identifying information regarding any member of the armed forces assigned to an overseas unit, a sensitive unit, or a routinely deployable unit.”

Judicial Watch has been seeking the name of the Special Ops officer, as well as the first names of other CIA officials that the filmmakers met with, but government attorneys have argued that the release of the names to Bigelow and Boal did not waive the Pentagon and CIA’s right to keep the information secret.

According to the McClatchy report, the inspector general will refer the case to the Justice Department, although a senior defense official told the McClatchy reporters that the Pentagon doesn’t think the case “will amount to anything.”

Nevertheless, according to McClatchy, investigators found that “one of the filmmakers attended a June 2011 CIA award ceremony that
recognized the Navy SEALs and CIA officers involved in the raid, but no
effort was made to protect the special operators’ identities.”

Boal and Bigelow have said that they were not, to their knowledge, given classified information.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has been a leading critic of the government access given to the filmmakers, and requested an inspector general investigation.

In a statement, King said, that the
“news that the DoD Inspector General has referred an aspect of its
investigation to DoJ for possible criminal prosecution is quite
troubling. … This reported
referral by the DoD Inspector General is an indication that our security
and theirs was, indeed, placed at risk by people who wanted to help
Hollywood make a movie.

“I eagerly await receipt of the reports of the DoD Inspector General, as well as that of the CIA Inspector General.”

Update: Pentagon spokesman George Little is challenging the McClatchy report, including that the case is now in the hands of the Justice Department. He said that the names redacted from the transcript released to Judicial Watch were blacked out for privacy reasons, as the transcript was deemed unclassified in total, reports Foreign Policy.

“The story unfortunately leaves the impression that Mr. Vickers engaged in the
unauthorized disclosure of classified information, something the Department
simply did not find,” Little told Foreign Policy.

In its most recent brief in response to Judicial Watch, government attorneys continue to argue that the refusal to release of the name of the Special Ops planner was for privacy reasons and that the established exemptions allowed for military personnel.

Update: Here is the full statement from Pentagon spokesman George Little, denying that the inspector general found that classified information was disclosed.

“The McClatchy story published this evening
concerning Mike Vickers, the Undersecretary for Intelligence, is misleading and
unfair. There is a pending Inspector General investigation on the question of
whether Mr. Vickers provided classified information in an interview with the
filmmakers of Zero Dark Thirty. We have no knowledge of a pending Department of
Justice investigation related to this interview, a transcript of which was
released–after a thorough and rigorous classification review–in response to a
Freedom of Information Act request. The classification review was conducted by
the DoD Office of Security Review, the entity in the Department with
responsibility for reviewing materials for dissemination under FOIA. The Office
of Security Review consulted with the Joint Staff, US Special Operations
Command, the National Security Agency, and other relevant components of the
Department. Mr. Vickers recused himself from the review. The review concluded
that the transcript was unclassified in its totality, including with respect to
the names of individuals mentioned in the course of the interview. Consistent
with standard FOIA procedures, the names of certain personnel who are not
senior DoD officials were redacted for privacy reasons. Those redactions were
not made to protect classified information. The story unfortunately leaves the
impression that Mr. Vickers engaged in the unauthorized disclosure of
classified information, something the Department simply did not find.”

 

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