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Defense official says filmmakers didn't get classified material

December 18, 2012|By Ken Dilanian
  • Jessica Chastain plays a member of the elite team of spies and military operatives who secretly devoted themselves to finding Osama bin Laden in "Zero Dark Thirty."
Jessica Chastain plays a member of the elite team of spies and military operatives… (Jonathan Olley, Columbia…)

WASHINGTON -- There is no evidence that Mike Vickers, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for intelligence, disclosed classified information when he spoke to the makers of the film "Zero Dark Thirty," the Pentagon’s chief spokesman said Tuesday.

“There is a pending inspector general investigation on the question of whether Mr. Vickers provided classified information in an interview with the filmmakers of 'Zero Dark Thirty,' ” Pentagon spokesman George Little said. When the Department of Defense reviewed a transcript of Vickers’ conversation with the filmmakers after it was requested under the Freedom of Information Act, Little said, none of the material was deemed to be classified. Names were redacted from the transcript for privacy reasons, not classification reasons, he added.

Some news reports, Little said, have suggested “that Mr. Vickers engaged in the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, something the department simply did not find."

McClatchy news service reported Monday that the inspector general had referred the matter to the Department of Justice but that so far the department had declined to launch a criminal case against Vickers for revealing the name of a SEAL Team Six member instrumental in coordinating the attack on the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed. ABC News also carried a story on the inspector general's investigation.

Little said that the name of a U.S. Special Operations Command officer who helped plan the May 2, 2011, raid on the compound, while redacted from the transcript made public, was not classified; therefore, Vickers broke no law in disclosing it. Whether Vickers opened himself up to criticism from the Pentagon’s inspector general by doing so is another matter, but a senior defense official said: “We don’t view this as a five-alarm fire here.”

The official, who asked not to be quoted by name, added: “He wasn’t doing this on his own. He was asked to talk to these filmmakers.”

The official did not know whether the inspector general had referred the matter to the Justice Department.

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