Published August 10, 2011
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee is calling for an investigation into the Obama administration's granting of high-level access to filmmakers re-creating the U.S. special operation forces mission that killed Usama bin Laden.
In a letter to the inspectors general of the Defense Department and CIA, U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., wrote that the administration's first duty in declassifying material is to provide full reporting to Congress and the American people 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," King wrote in the Aug. 9 letter.
The movie is the creation of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, who won an Oscar for their portrayal of an Iraq war bomb squad in "The Hurt Locker." In a New York Times column that appeared Sunday, columnist Maureen Dowd noted that the White House was counting on the "big-screen version of the killing of bin Laden to counter Obama's growing reputation as ineffectual."
Dowd added that the pair had gotten "top-level access" to the mission and the projected October 2012 release date is "perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher."
"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," a public relations representative for the film and Mark Boal said in a statement. "This was an American triumph, both heroic, and non-partisan and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise."
The Pentagon confirmed Wednesday that it is cooperating with the project.
"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," Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said. "Until there is a script to review, and a request for equipment or other DoD support, there is no formal agreement for DoD support."
A CIA spokeswoman said the agency's goal is an "accurate portrayal" of its mission.
"As part of our public outreach, this agency -- like others in our government -- has over the years engaged with writers, documentary filmmakers, movie and TV producers and others in the entertainment industry," Marie Harf said. "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."
However, Fox News has learned that when the Pentagon cooperated with Bigelow on "The Hurt Locker," a Department of Defense-sanctioned Army adviser pulled out at the last minute because Bigelow added several scenes that had not been authorized, breaking the production assistance agreement.
Among the additional scenes not approved by the Pentagon were one in which a U.S.-armored Humvee with an American flag on it drove into a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan to film "angry reaction" of the crowd. The directors also added scenes that showed U.S. military personnel abusing detainees.
King said he questioned whether military officials and the CIA will be able to screen the film before its release, whether the filmmakers access to CIA agents could blow their covers and how many tactics, techniques and agency methods could have been compromised.
Leaks of classified information regarding the bin Laden mission have already resulted in the arrests of Pakistanis who were believed by local authorities to have assisted the CIA with the May 1 raid, King noted.
Participation by the administration in making such a film is "bound to increase such leaks," King's letter continued.
But White Press Secretary Jay Carney characterized concerns that the U.S. is giving away its secrets or endangering its operations as "ridiculous."
"We do not discuss classified information," Carney told reporters on Wednesday. "I would hope that as we face a continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss."
Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a retired Army Reserve officer who served in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2004, said the "hugely bad idea" could potentially reveal classified material or specific techniques used to kill the Al Qaeda leader.
"It appears to me to be a political stunt," Shaffer told FoxNews.com. "This is not going to benefit the SEALs. They have gotten all the benefits they need, thank you very much.
Shaffer also questioned the timing of the film's release.
"The History Channel and the Military Channel do a great job in re-creations," he told FoxNews.com. "So, the question is: Why this and not other relevant elements of the war? This is an anomaly. And who benefits from this? Does the SEAL team benefit? Does the Department of Defense? The only thing you need to ask yourself is, 'Who benefits by the release in October?'"
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin and Wes Barrett contributed to this report.