Documents show White House interest in bin Laden film
August 29, 2012
Documents released by the Pentagon and CIA shed light on White House officials' interest in a Hollywood film project dramatizing the U.S. commando raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed.
The documents released to Judicial Watch, a conservative group, under the Freedom of Information Act and made public on Tuesday include emails between top Pentagon and White House officials discussing efforts to cooperate with film director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal on the bin Laden raid movie.
Controversy erupted last year when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that the film was supposed to be released weeks before the November 6 presidential election. The premiere subsequently was put off until after the election, though film trailers have been released by Sony Pictures.
Some critics of President Barack Obama, including prominent Republican members of Congress, have cited the administration's cooperation with the filmmakers as part of an alleged pattern of deliberate national security leaks designed to enhance Obama's image as the election approaches. Obama has strongly denied his White House leaked sensitive classified information.
Documents published by Judicial Watch in May indicated that Bigelow and Boal, who were behind the Oscar-winning movie "The Hurt Locker," had engaged with the CIA and top Pentagon officials before getting involved with the White House.
The newly released material appears to affirm that, but also indicates that White House officials wanted to keep tabs on this and other major media projects about the bin Laden raid.
In a message to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes and White House Deputy Press Secretary Jamie Smith on June 15, 2011 - six weeks after the bin Laden raid - Pentagon Public Affairs chief Douglas Wilson asked for their "guidance" on how extensively defense officials should cooperate with media projects about the raid and the Boal/Bigelow film in particular.
"Our overall engagement with Boal and Bigelow to date has been pretty general," Wilson wrote. But as the project progressed, he said, Michael Vickers, the Pentagon civilian in charge of special operations, and other top officials "would welcome guidance regarding parameters."
Wilson said that Boal and Bigelow had been working with both the Pentagon and CIA on "initial context briefing," and that Leon Panetta, then CIA chief, had given his "full approval/support" for such briefings. He also said that then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates "shared ... admiration for their previous film efforts."