Did the Obama administration release classified information to Hollywood notables for a film about the operation that killed Osama bin Laden?
That’s a question Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) wants answered. And in response, the Pentagon’s inspector general has launched an investigation, King disclosed Thursday.
“We plan to begin subject investigation immediately,” Patricia A. Brannin, deputy inspector general for intelligence and special program assessments, wrote in a memo that King emailed to reporters.
At issue is whether the filmmakers — director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who both won Oscars for their 2009 Iraq war movie “The Hurt Locker” -- were given access to classified information about a mission that remains shrouded in secrecy. While newspapers and magazines have published detailed accounts about the raid, much remains unknown to all but a few.
The Sony Pictures film had been scheduled to arrive in theaters in October, in the midst of President Obama’s reelection battle. But that has now been pushed to December, Sony says. The Bin Laden raid is widely viewed as a political plus for Obama, who sent U.S. Navy SEALs to kill the Al Qaeda leader at a compound in Pakistan even though the CIA could not say with certainty he was there.
King’s interest was aroused in August when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that “the movie-makers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration.”
Boal, Dowd wrote, “got welcomed to the upper echelons of the White House and the Pentagon and showed up recently — to the surprise of some military officers — at a CIA ceremony celebrating the hero Seals.”
“The leaks that followed the successful Bin Laden mission led to the arrests of Pakistanis and put in danger the mission’s heroes and their families,” King said in a statement. “Privately, individuals in the intelligence and special operations communities expressed support for my request for a probe. I look forward to an update on the investigation and actions taken thus far.”
When he first raised the issue in August, White House spokesman Jay Carney called King’s claims that Bigelow and Boal had gotten access to confidential information “ridiculous.”
“When people, including you, in this room, are working on articles, books, documentaries or movies that involve the president, ask to speak to administration officials, we do our best to accommodate them to make sure the facts are correct,” Carney said. “That is hardly a novel approach to the media. We do not discuss classified information.”
In addition to the Pentagon investigation, the CIA has decided to craft a written policy about how its public affairs division works with authors and filmmakers, the agency said in letter to King released Thursday.
“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,” Bigelow and Boal said in a statement in August.
“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 nonpartisan, and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise.”
An earlier version of this post stated that the film about the Bin Laden raid was scheduled to hit theaters in October. This post has been updated to reflect new information, from Sony Pictures, that the film release has been pushed back to December.