The conservative website Judicial Watch has posted documents revealing the extent to which the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA gave access to filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal as they prepared their upcoming movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Although leaders of Special Operations Command could not talk to them, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Mike Vickers said that they would make available an unidentified Navy SEAL who was involved in the planning. “That’s dynamite,” Boal said, according to a transcript of the conversation he and Bigelow had with Vickers and others. “That’s incredible,” Bigelow said.
Vickers added that the SEAL team member would “speak for operators, and he’ll speak for senior military commanders, because they’re all the same tribe and everything, and so you should get most of what you need from him. Now, again the reason Admiral Olson and Admiral McRaven didn’t want to talk is this command conflict of interest. And then with (redacted) the only thing we ask is that you not reveal his name in any way as a consultant, because again, it’s the same thing, he shouldn’t be talking out of school, this at least gives him one step removed and he knows what he can and can’t say, but this way at least he can be as open as he can with you and it ought to meet your needs and give you lots of color.”
The full transcript of the filmmakers’ interview with Vickers is here: http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/13421/
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, last year called for an investigation into whether the filmmakers were given classified information. Suspicions were raised after the New York Times mentioned the access given to the filmmakers in a column in August. After the release of the documents, King called it a “very serious issue.”
Also released were emails and other documents revealing some coordination with Glover Park Group, a lobbying firm, and other documents suggesting that access was given to a CIA facility. According to Judicial Watch, the documents reveal that the filmmakers met with White House officials at least twice about the movie.
King said in a statement on Wednesday, “After reviewing these emails, I am even more concerned about the possible exposure of classified information to these filmmakers, who as far as I know, do not possess security clearances. The email messages indicate that the filmmakers were allowed an unprecedented visit to a classified facility so secret that its name is redacted in the released email. If this facility is so secret that the name cannot even be seen by the public, then why in the world would the Obama Administration allow filmmakers to tour it? The emails also tell of these filmmakers being allowed to tour the CIA’s vaults, which is absolutely shocking to those of us who know the sensitive nature of materials kept there.”
“Also troubling is the fact that the Democratic lobbying firm Glover Park Group was so intimately involved in brokering these filmmakers’ access to clandestine officers and potentially special operators only weeks after the mission and when details were otherwise still very closely guarded, and one of Glover Park’s primary contacts within the Administration, CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf, left shortly thereafter to join President Obama’s reelection campaign in Chicago.
“This is a very serious issue. We simply cannot forget what then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates said a week after the raid: ‘Frankly, a week ago Sunday, in the Situation Room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out Bin Laden. That all fell apart on Monday, the next day.'”
The movie, “Zero Dark Thirty,” to be released by Sony, became a flashpoint for conservatives over original plans to release it in October, during campaign season. The release has since been moved to Dec. 19.
Pentagon press secretary George Little disputed some of the allegations. He said that while the planner was suggested as a possible point of contact for information on the bin Laden raid, the meeting between that planner and the filmmakers never occurred.
He said the Defense Dept. engages on a regular basis with the entertainment industry on movie projects, and the goal is to “make them as realistic as possible. We believe this is an important service that we provide.”
Little added that Pentagon officials did meet with producers of the film but said, “We have never reviewed a script of the movie.” Little also denied that the cooperation was an attempt to boost Obama’s election chances, noting that the movie would not be out until after the election. The filmmakers had no comment, other than to refer to a statement they gave in August. It said, “Our upcoming film … integrates the collective efforts of three administrations, including those of Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, as well as the cooperative strategies and implementation by the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency.”
Judicial Watch said it obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information request.
(Variety’s Justin Kroll and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)