Digital Version of November/December 2014 Print Edition
Filmakers’ unprecedented access to Bin Laden Seal Team called ‘dangerous’
Revelations that Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow was granted unprecedented access to members of the SEAL team that helped plan the assault on Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistan compound in preparations for a feature film didn’t sit well with congressional homeland security leaders.
“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,” said Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee in a statement on May 23.
The evening before, the Washington D.C. legal watchdog group Judicial Watch released transcripts of meetings and communications between Bigelow, the Academy Award-winning director of The Hurt Locker, screenwriter Mark Boal and individuals in the military and government involved in planning the Bin Laden assault. Judicial Watch released hundreds of pages it obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request filed last January with the Department of Defense that show the filmmakers were given deep, exclusive access to the people involved in running Bin Laden to ground in Pakistan and ultimately killing him.
One transcript obtained by the group from a July 14, 2011 meeting between DOD officials, including Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers, Bigelow and Boal indicates that Boal met directly with White House officials on at least two occasions regarding the film. At the same July 14 meeting, according to the transcript, the Defense Department granted Bigelow and Boal access to a "planner, Operator and Commander of SEAL Team Six," who was responsible for the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.
According to another transcript obtained by Judicial Watch, in proposing the arrangement, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers said: “The only thing we ask is that you not reveal his name in any way as a consultant because . . . he shouldn’t be talking out of school.” Vickers went on to say during the meeting at the Pentagon: “This at least, this 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.” Boal later responds, “You delivered.”
The Judicial Watch information further unsettled King, who had requested a formal investigation last August into the rumored contact between the filmmakers and military planners.
“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,” said King in a May 23 statement. “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.
King said the involvement of Democratic lobbying firm the Glover Park Group in brokering the meetings was also troubling, as one of the firm’s primary contacts in the Obama administration, CIA spokesman Marie Harf, departed her position after the meetings and joined the President’s reelection campaign in Chicago.
King fired off letters to Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Vickers and Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell voicing concern about the potential release of classified information to the filmmakers.