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Pentagon backs official who spoke to 'Zero Dark Thirty' filmmakers

December 18, 2012|By Julie Makinen
  • Jessica Chastain plays a member of the elite team of military operatives who devoted themselves to finding Osama bin Laden in "Zero Dark Thirty."
Jessica Chastain plays a member of the elite team of military operatives… (Jonathan Olley / Sony Pictures )

The Pentagon is stepping up its rhetorical support for Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers amid media reports that he is under investigation for improperly disclosing classified information to the filmmakers of "Zero Dark Thirty," a new film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

"There is a pending inspector general investigation involving Undersecretary Vickers, and the IG will and should reach her own conclusions," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement released late Tuesday. "But because yesterday's press reports on Mr. Vickers are unwarranted, unfounded and unfair, we are obliged to correct the record. He deserves better."

Little's statement said that in July 2011, a few months after the raid that killed Bin Laden, Vickers was asked by the department's Office of Public Affairs to provide background information to the filmmakers, a request the department characterized as routine. The interview was a coordinated response to questions, Little said, "just as we handle questions daily from journalists, writers and media producers." He added that the Office of Public Affairs "was present for the unclassified interview and transcribed it."

According to Little, the Pentagon's Office of Security Review reviewed the transcript and concluded that it is unclassified. It was then released publicly by the Department of Defense in May, he said. "Where there are redactions in the transcript, it is for privacy reasons only, not because the redacted material is classified," he said, echoing statements he made earlier Tuesday.

Senior special operations officers, Little added, approved in advance an offer Vickers made to arrange a discussion with a special operations planner who was not part of the Bin Laden raid team. However, he said, such a meeting never occurred.  

"The secretary has full confidence in Mr. Vickers and believes he is doing an outstanding job," Little said in the statement. Vickers, he added, "is a national security professional with a long career spanning multiple administrations, including distinguished service in Special Forces, the CIA, and at the Pentagon."

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