Documents show filmmakers were granted unique access to bin Laden raid info
(CBS News) The CIA and the Department of Defense gave two Hollywood filmmakers unique access to information about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, newly-released documents show, including access to a secure CIA facility and people involved in the raid.
The documents, obtained by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch via a Freedom of Information Act suit, also show the filmmakers coordinated with the White House and a left-leaning lobbying firm in order to gain access to the information they sought for their upcoming movie on the bin Laden raid. The Defense Department tells CBS News that no classified information was released to the filmmakers, but at least one Republican congressman, House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King of New York, expressed concerns today about the possibility.
One of the documents released, a transcript from a July 14, 2011 meeting, indicates that Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers helped arrange special meetings for the filmmakers, Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal.
"The basic idea is they'll make a guy available who was involved from the beginning as a planner; a SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander," Vickers said in the meeting. Some of the names Vicker mentions are redacted in the transcript. "A guy named [redacted] ... he basically can probably give you everything you would want or would get from Adm Olson or Adm McRaven," the transcript says, referring to former United States Special Operations Command Commander Admiral Eric Olson and Naval Special Operations Commander Admiral Bill McRaven.
Boal responds, "That's dynamite."
In the transcript released, Boal also suggests that he met with John Brennan, President Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser, and Denis McDonough, Mr. Obama's deputy national security adviser. "I took your guidance and spoke to the WH and had a good meeting with Brennan and McDonough," he said, according to the transcript.
Additionally, internal CIA emails from that month suggest Bigelow and Boal were granted access to "the Vault," a CIA building where some of the planning for the raid took place. In a series of emails asking for access to the Vault, an official says, "Of course this is doable." The people corresponding then arrange a time for a tour of the facility.
Released emails also suggest that Vicker's meeting with Bigelow and Boal was in part facilitated by the White House and that the left-leaning lobbying firm The Glover Park Group also helped the filmmakers meet with officials.
In response to the newly released information, Rep. King sent letters to Vickers and Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell to voice concerns about the possible release of classified information. Citing remarks from government officials who said leaks pertaining to the bin Laden raid could jeopardize security, King wrote in both letters, "It is unfortunate that the Administration's desire to provide Hollywood filmmakers access to such information is directly in opposition to the stated views of our senior military leadership."
Lt. Col. Jim Gregory of the Defense Department told CBS News that no classified information was provided to the filmmakers.
"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," he said. "Many individuals in the industry expressed interest in developing projects on what can only be described as one of the top intelligence and military successes of a generation. Our engagement on these projects was driven by a desire to inform the public, not by timing."
Still, King expressed skepticism today about the motivations driving the government assistance provided to the filmmakers.
"Filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal may have set out to tell a blockbuster, election-year story about one of the most highly classified operations in American history, but through these emails they've ended up telling a damning story of extremely close, unprecedented, and potentially dangerous collaboration with top officials at the CIA, DoD, and the White House and a top Democratic lobbying firm," he said in a statement.
Last August, after news broke that government officials were helping Bigelow and Boal, the White House said the idea that the administration was inappropriately sharing top-level information was "ridiculous."
After King requested investigations into the matter, the Defense Department's inspector general conducted an initial review. According to King's statement today, the Inspector General for Intelligence and Special Program Assessments had launched a formal investigation into "actions taken by Defense Department personnel related to the release of information to the filmmakers."
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