Panetta denies classified Bin Laden information leaked to Hollywood

WASHINGTON – Disputing allegations by some Republican lawmakers, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta denied Wednesday that any classified information or material was given to the Hollywood producers of a planned film about the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year.

Panetta, who previously headed the CIA, told the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee that director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal were given the same kind of access as other Americans who seek help from the Pentagon.

“I can assure you, I’ve asked the question,” Panetta said. “In this instance, no one, nobody released any information that was unauthorized.”

Panetta said the Pentagon has an office that “almost every day deals with people that want to do something about, you know, either a movie or a book or an article or something related to our defense. And we want to make sure that the information that they do use is accurate. And we do assist them with regards to the accuracy of that information.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and some others have contended that the Obama administration jeopardized national security by cooperating too closely with Bigelow and Boal, who won Academy awards for their 2008 film, “The Hurt Locker,” when they visited Washington last year to research the Bin Laden raid. The issue has become more sensitive since Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. assigned two federal prosecutors last week to investigate if administration officials leaked classified information to news organizations about CIA drone strikes and other secret programs.

King said that documents obtained last month under the Freedom of Information Act by a conservative activist group, Judicial Watch, showed that the filmmakers received “extremely close, unprecedented and potentially dangerous collaboration” from the Obama administration. The documents do not indicate any release of classified information, however, and administration officials have denied any such leaks.

The pair were given unusual access to CIA officials, however. They met with senior officials, including the head of the Counter Terrorism Center, who is under cover. And they were shown a secure room at CIA headquarters where some planning for the Bin Laden raid took place, the documents show. A CIA spokesman said the room was empty when they visited, however.

The Times reported last month that the Pentagon and CIA routinely cooperate with filmmakers shooting movies or TV shows that could reflect favorably on the spy agency or the military.

The film on the Bin Laden raid is scheduled to be released after the November election.

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