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Film on Bin Laden causes stir over Washington access

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) wants the CIA and Pentagon to investigate whether the White House gave filmmakers access to confidential information regarding the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

August 11, 2011|By Rebecca Keegan, Los Angeles Times
  • Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal's film project on slain Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is stirring up controversy.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal's film project… (Ethan Miller / Getty Images )

Director Kathryn Bigelow hasn't yet called "action" on her movie about the capture of Osama bin Laden, but the project is already stirring up controversy.

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to the CIA and the Defense Department on Tuesday asking for an investigation into whether the White House has granted Bigelow and Sony Pictures access to confidential information for the project.

"I'm very concerned that any sensitive information could be disclosed in a movie," King said in a phone interview. "The procedures and operations that we used in this raid are very likely what we'll use in other raids. There's no way a director would know what could be tipping off the enemy."

King also seems to be concerned about the possible political ramifications of the film, which is scheduled to arrive in theaters in October 2012.

"The fact that the movie is going to be released three weeks before election day, the people at the CIA told me they had no idea that this was the plan," he said. "They were never told it was gonna come out so close to election day."

King said he had spoken to members of the CIA who confirmed that the agency is working with the filmmakers. "There's a division in the agency," he said. "Some wanted to cooperate, some didn't."

In a news briefing Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged the filmmakers have been in touch with the administration but called King's claims that Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal had been given access to confidential information "ridiculous."

"When people, including you in this room, are working on articles, books, documentaries or movies that involve the president, ask to speak to administration officials, we do our best to accommodate them to make sure the facts are correct," Carney said.

"That is hardly a novel approach to the media," he added. "We do not discuss classified information. And I would hope that as we face the continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie."

King, in his letter to the CIA and Pentagon, asked the inspectors general of both agencies to investigate issues including:

— "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 operations and clandestine CIA officers to discuss the [Bin Laden] raid."

— Whether a copy of the film would be "submitted to the military and CIA for pre-publication review, to determine if special operations tactics … would be revealed by its release."

— How filmmakers' attendance at a meeting with special operators and agency officers at CIA headquarters was "balanced against those officers' duties to maintain their covers."

Bigelow and Boal, who both won Oscars in 2009 for their Iraq war movie "The Hurt Locker," responded to King in a statement issued through Sony Pictures.

"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, including those of Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, as well as the cooperative strategies and implementation by the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. Indeed, the dangerous work of finding the world's most wanted man was carried out by individuals in the military and intelligence communities who put their lives at risk for the greater good without regard for political affiliation. This was an American triumph, both heroic and nonpartisan, and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise."

Bigelow's movie, once known as "Kill Bin Laden," is currently untitled.

rebecca.keegan@latimes.com

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