Filmmakers Received Access To Classified Details Of Bin Laden Raid

While there are legitimate questions about the extent to which our government overly classifies material as “secret,” or higher, there’s something about this that doesn’t sound right at all:

Just weeks after Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency officials warned publicly of the dangers posed by leaks about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, top officials at both agencies and at the White House granted Hollywood filmmakers unusual access to those involved in planning the raid and some of the methods they used to do it, newly released government records show.

At a briefing in July 2011, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Mike Vickers told filmmakers Michael Boal and Katherine Bigelow that the leaders of the the Special Operations Command couldn’t speak to them for appearances’ sake. However, Vickers said that the Pentagon would make available a Navy SEAL who was involved in planning the raid from its earliest stages.

“On the operators side, Adm. McRaven and Adm. Olson do not want to talk directly, because it’s just a bad, their [sic] just concerned as commanders of the force and they’re telling them all the time—don’t you dare talk to anybody, that it’s just a bad example if it gets out—even with all sorts of restrictions and everything,” Vickers said, according to a transcript of the meeting released Friday to Judicial Watch. The conservative watchdog group filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding the documents.

“The basic idea is they’ll make a guy available who was involved from the beginning as a planner, a SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander,” McRaven said.

“That’s dynamite,” Boal replied, according to the transcript. (Posted in full here and worth the read.)

Bigelow, best known for “The Hurt Locker,” also chimed in. “That’s incredible,” she said, gratefully.

“He’ll speak for operators and he’ll speak for senior military commanders,” Vickers continued, adding that the designated SEAL would essentially be a mouthpiece for McRaven and Olson. “The only thing we ask is that you not reveal his name in any way as a consultant because again it’s the same thing, he shouldn’t be talking out of school, this at least gives him one step removed and he knows what he can and can’t say,” Vickers added, vouching that the SEAL cleared to meet with the filmmakers would be able to provide “lots of color.”

The Pentagon is now withholding from the public and the press the same name DoD gave the filmmakers.

(…)

The documents obtained by Judicial Watch show the White House and the CIA also rolled out the welcome mat for the filmmakers. Boal visited with acting CIA director Michael Morrell and had access to a mock-up at CIA headquarters that depicted the Abbottabad, Pakistan compound where the raid was carried out, the records indicate.

“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,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) said in a statement early Wednesday. “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?”

Now, it’s long been the case that government agencies, including the military have cooperated with Hollywood, allowing filmmakers access to bases to film scenes and providing technical advice on matters such as ship design and military customs. However, something like that is a far cry, it strikes me, from allowing them to have access to information so secret that it supposedly cannot even be shared with the public for fear of the damage it would do to national security. Either the classification is entirely bogus, or somebody was being irresponsible in allowing civilians access to information that they should not be seeing. It would be nice to know which it is.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Intelligence, National Security, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    I’ll wait for a little more information. Peter King is a political hack who thinks everything the Obama administration does is treasonous.

  2. PJ says:

    Hollywood and the Pentagon have a long history of cooperation. On Backstory segment David Sirota, a journalist radio host and author of Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now, examines how the Department of Defense leans on major studios to change their scripts in ways that promote militarism.

    It’s a good listen.

    Hurt Locker was denied access to DoD, so we can all be sure that her new movie won’t contain any kind of critique of the following: the military, SEAL Team 6, or the operation.
    That’s the price filmmakers have to pay to get access.

  3. Gustopher says:

    Am I the only one hoping for a fun, family-oriented animated movie about 6 seals and their goofy slapstick adventures as they plan and execute a plan to execute an evil terrorist?

  4. Jeremy R says:

    Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) said in a statement early Wednesday. “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?”

    Either the classification is entirely bogus, or somebody was being irresponsible in allowing civilians access to information that they should not be seeing. It would be nice to know which it is.

    You’re ignoring the third, obvious option. The secrecy classification wasn’t bogus, and the existence of the compound mockup needed to be kept secret so as not to give away the coming mission. After the mission took place, the prime reason to keep secret a model of the compound is lifted. King intentionally is blurring that line in his letter since he assumes the media is filled with half-wits. He’s right.

  5. Jeremy R says:

    http://fox6now.com/2012/05/23/did-bin-laden-filmmakers-jeopardize-national-security/

    Pentagon press secretary George Little disputed some of the allegations. He said that while a planner was suggested as a possible point of contact for information on the bin Laden raid, a meeting between that planner and the filmmakers never occurred.

    He said the Defense Department engages on a regular basis with the entertainment industry on movie projects, and the goal is to “make them as realistic as possible. We believe this is an important service that we provide.”

    Little added that Pentagon officials did meet with producers of the film but said, “We have never reviewed a script of the movie.”

    Little also denied that the cooperation was an attempt to boost President Barack Obama’s election chances, and said the movie would not be out until after the election.

    CIA spokesman Preston Golson disputed the allegation that the filmmakers were given access to a secret “vault.” “Virtually every office and conference room in our headquarters is called a ‘vault’ in agency lingo,” he said. The ‘vault’ in question, that had been used for planning the raid, was empty at the time of the filmmakers’ visit.

    Golson added, “The CIA has been open about our engagement with writers, documentary filmmakers, movie and TV producers, and others in the entertainment industry. Our goal is an accurate portrayal of the men and women of the CIA, their vital mission and the commitment to public service that defines them. The protection of national security equities is always paramount in any engagement with the entertainment industry.”

    The spokesman said that when appropriate, the CIA arranges visits to the agency for unclassified meetings.