BREAKING: New York-based congressman Peter King has called for an investigation into the Obama Administration’s cooperation with the untitled movie that The Hurt Locker’s Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal are making about Navy SEAL Team 6’s hunt and eventual kill of 9/11 terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. The request came after a New York Times column by Maureen Dowd reporting that the film — which was acquired at auction by Sony Pictures before a script was completed — received cooperation and help in describing a mission that was classified. The filmmakers have just released the following statement:
“Our upcoming film project about the decade long pursuit of Bin Laden has been in the works for many years and 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 the Central Intelligence Agency. Indeed, the dangerous work of finding the world’s most wanted man was carried out by individuals in the military and intelligence communities who put their lives at risk for the greater good without regard for political affiliation. This was an American triumph, both heroic, and non-partisan and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise.” Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal.
The film is still casting up and Sony will release it Oct. 12, 2012, which falls smack in the middle of the Presidential election and likely has much to do with the complaint. The night that President Obama announced that bin Laden was killed, Deadline reported that Bigelow and Boal were already moving fast on a film that was being called Killing Bin Laden, one that focused on an earlier attempt by the Navy SEALs to finish off the Al-Qaeda leader. Deadline noted that they quite possibly had the hottest project in Hollywood, one that every studio in town was interested in. Megan Ellison’s Annapurna signed on to finance the film and Sony Pictures bought it at auction during the Cannes Film Festival. Clearly, they had already done a lot of research on the ground because they didn’t take that long to change the movie and add a satisfying ending. Boal has a foreign correspondent background, and he developed and used contacts in the military and the Middle East to shape The Hurt Locker.
The White House has knocked down the notion that the filmmakers were getting tipped secrets, with a spokesman calling it “ridiculous” and saying the filmmakers got no preferential treatment. This all sounds like a steaming pile of partisan politics to me, but it certainly will get a lot of attention. The military has made a practice of cooperating on gung-ho pictures in the past, lending know-how and making military hardware available on movies ranging from Pearl Harbor to Top Gun. Few pols have complained until now.
There will be plenty of upcoming appeals for cooperation by military mission films taking shape, including the upcoming Pete Berg-directed Lone Survivor, a fact-based tale about heroic Navy SEALs who struggled to survive after their covert mission in Afghanistan was compromised and they were forced to fight their way out of an ambush by Taliban forces. And let’s not forget about Act of Valor, a film completed about a Navy SEAL mission that featured a cast of actual Navy SEALs re-creating their exploits. That movie Relativity Media will release next President’s Day weekend. So it doesn’t seem like Bigelow and Boal are getting anything out of the ordinary. Divulging classified matter is a serious matter, but the film is a drama, not a documentary, and the facts behind the successful hunt of bin Laden have been widely reported by now.
“I would hope that as we face the continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie,” White House Press secretary Jay Carney said.
Here is Rep. King’s letter:
August 9, 2011
The Honorable Gordon S. Heddell
Department of Defense
400 Army Navy Drive
Arlington, VA 22202-4704
The Honorable David Buckley
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.
PETER T. KING