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'Zero Dark Thirty': New questions on filmmakers' access to SEAL

December 18, 2012|By Steven Zeitchik

Questions about the relationship between the Obama administration and the filmmakers behind Osama bin Laden manhunt film "Zero Dark Thirty" are percolating again after news accounts said the Defense Department's inspector general will criticize a member of the department in an upcoming report and refer him to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation.

ABC News and McClatchy reported Monday that an upcoming inspector general report would cite a criminal referral for Michael Vickers, an undersecretary of Defense. According to the accounts, Vickers provided filmmakers (including director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal) with the name of a SEAL Team Six member who was instrumental in coordinating the attack. The provision of such information by a Defense Department official is potentially a criminal offense, though whether it can or would be prosecuted remains an open question. A Defense Department spokesman told ABC News the report is not ready yet because the investigation is ongoing.

Boal and Bigelow, who spent several years researching their film, have maintained that they went through the proper channels and did not have access to classified information.

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Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who heads the homeland security committee, released a statement Tuesday morning noting that he's been a "leading critic of the Obama administration’s collaboration on the film" and calling the news report "quite troubling."

The news puts an issue back into the spotlight, however temporarily, that had been thought largely past after the presidential election.

Interestingly, "Zero Dark Thirty" has been criticized by some on the left who say the film erroneously suggests that George W. Bush-era policies of harsh interrogation were instrumental in finding Bin Laden.

The film opens in Los Angeles on Wednesday ahead of a nationwide rollout in January.

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