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Wednesday
Aug102011

Bin Laden Movie: Did the White House Go Too Far?

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- New York Rep. Peter King, the chairman of the House committee on Homeland Security, is calling for an investigation into reports that the Obama Administration has granted Sony Pictures high-level access for a film on the covert mission that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

King writes that he is concerned “regarding ongoing leaks of classified information regarding sensitive military operations” and warns that close cooperation on the Hollywood action-thriller could lead to further leaks that could undermine the success of future operations.

“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,” King, (R-New York), writes in a letter addressed to Defense Department Inspector General Gordon Heddell and CIA Inspector General David Buckley. “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.”

The film is to be directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Oscar for directing The Hurt Locker -- which won seven Oscars in 2010, including best picture.

“This film project is only in the script development phase, and DoD is providing assistance with script research, which is something we commonly do for established filmmakers," said Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan. "Until there is a script to review, and a request for equipment or other DoD support, there is no formal agreement for DoD support.

"When people working on articles, books, documentaries or movies that involve the Department of Defense request assistance, we do our best to accommodate them to make sure the facts are correct. We do not discuss classified information.”

The Bin Laden project is currently untitled but is expected to be released in October of 2012 -- just a month before the election.

Here is the full text of the letter sent to the inspectors general:

August 9, 2011

The Honorable Gordon S. Heddell
Inspector General
Department of Defense
400 Army Navy Drive
Arlington, VA  22202-4704

The Honorable David Buckley
Inspector General
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.

Sincerely,
PETER T. KING
Chairman


Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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