Published December 22, 2015
The Defense Department and CIA have agreed to investigate access to and possible release of classified information to Hollywood filmmakers on the killing of Usama bin Laden after a Republican lawmaker questioned the release of information into the May 1 raid in Pakistan.
Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, asked for a review in August as to whether "Hurt Locker" director Kathryn Bigelow was given access that King suggested could leave U.S. military secrets and personnel open either to leaks or worse. Bigelow and executive Mark Boal are working on a movie about the hunt for Bin Laden.
King said in a statement Thursday he was gratified that the two agencies had agreed to look into Bigelow's and Boal's access.
"Following a shockingly dismissive response to my request from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, I am pleased that the inspectors general at DoD and the CIA agree with me that potential leaks to filmmakers are something worth investigating and taking action to address," King said.
"The leaks that followed the successful bin Laden mission led to the arrests of Pakistanis and put in danger the mission's heroes and their families," he said.
In her Dec. 23 letter to King, CIA Deputy Inspector General Patricia A. Lewis wrote that "the CIA's Office of Public Affairs handles requests for information from the entertainment industry."
"According to a senior official from that office, the protection of national security equities -- including the preservation of our ability to conduct effective counterterrorism operation -- is the decisive factor in determining how the CIA engages with filmmakers and the media as a whole," she wrote.
The office also is "developing a written policy to create a single point of reference that will govern future interactions with the entertainment industry," she added.
Citing a New York Times report, King wrote in his Aug. 9 letter that Bigelow and Boal were granted "'top-level access to the most classified mission in history' to produce a move 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."
King asked whether the White House was involved in consultations on the "advisability" of providing Hollywood executives with access to covert military operators and clandestine CIA officers; whether the Defense Department or CIA will get an advance copy of the film to review to determine if special operations tactics or techniques were revealed and how compromised undercover agents may be by the presence of filmmakers at CIA meetings about the raid.
The White House has denied discussing classified information and in August dismissed King's concern.
"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 than a movie," White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Aug. 10.
Bigelow has said the "film has been in the works for years" and chronicles, in a nonpartisan way, the efforts of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations to capture the Al Qaeda leader.
However, its scheduled release date has raised questions about Obama's re-election effort and his image as a terrorist-slayer.
The Defense Department decision to take up the investigation, which will involve the offices of intelligence, special operations command and public affairs, comes within days of an apparently renewed focus by the president's re-election team on Hollywood.
The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday reported that Obama's ambassador to the Bahamas has returned to Los Angeles "in the hopes of patching up the incumbent president's battered relationship with the entertainment industry."
Nicole Avant, the daughter of Democratic activist and music executive Clarence Avant, was rewarded the diplomatic post after raising millions for the president's 2008 campaign, the Reporter said. Now, she has returned home to court Hollywood activists who say that the president "has given their causes short shrift since moving into the White House," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
First lady Michelle Obama is reportedly to be in Hollywood at the end of the month for fundraisers.