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Officials helped makers of Osama bin Laden film, documents show

Pentagon and CIA papers show the agencies granted privileges to director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, including access to a Navy SEAL and a CIA 'vault.' There is no indication that classified information was shared.

May 24, 2012|By Kim Geiger, Washington Bureau
  • Screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow, shown in 2010, were granted privileges including access to a Navy SEAL and a CIA “vault.”
Screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow, shown in 2010, were… (Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty…)

WASHINGTON — In the months after the U.S. militarymission that killed Osama bin Laden, Pentagon officials met with Hollywood filmmakers and gave them special access in an effort to influence the creation of a film about the operation, newly released documents show.

Emails and meeting transcripts obtained from the Pentagon and CIA through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch suggest that officials went out of their way to assist the filmmakers, while trying to keep their cooperation from becoming public.

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who won Oscars for their 2009 Iraq war movie,"The Hurt Locker," were granted access to a Navy SEAL who was involved in planning the May 2011 raid, according to a transcript of a meeting that took place in July.

"The only thing we ask is that you not reveal his name in any way as a consultant because … he shouldn't be talking out of school," Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers told the filmmakers. Vickers later added: "This at least gives him one step removed and he knows what he can and can't say, but this way at least he can be as open as he can with you and it ought to meet your needs."

The name of the "planner, SEAL Team 6 operator and commander," was redacted from the documents that were provided to Judicial Watch.

A Pentagon spokesman told Politico that the identity of "a planner, not a member of SEAL Team 6," was provided "as a possible point of contact for additional information if the DoD determined that additional support was merited."

"No additional official DoD support was granted, nor to our knowledge was it pursued by the filmmakers," Lt. Col. James Gregory told Politico.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told the Associated Press that the meeting between the planner and the filmmakers never actually took place.

Bigelow and Boal were also allowed to tour "the vault," a CIA building where tactical planning for the raid took place, an internal CIA email shows.

CIA spokesman Preston Golson disputed that characterization.

"Virtually every office and conference room in our headquarters is called a 'vault' in agency lingo," he told the Associated Press. "The 'vault' in question, that had been used for planning the raid, was empty at the time of the filmmakers' visit."

The Defense Department's acting inspector general is investigating whether any classified information was improperly disclosed. Nothing in the documents — 153 pages of records from the Department of Defense and 113 pages from the CIA — indicates the filmmakers were given classified information.

But Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said the documents "show that politically connected filmmakers were given extraordinary and secret access to Bin Laden raid information, including the identity of a SEAL Team 6 leader."

Rep. Peter T. King(R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the documents left him "even more concerned about the possible exposure of classified information to these filmmakers, who as far as I know do not possess security clearances."

"The email messages indicate that the filmmakers were allowed an unprecedented visit to a classified facility so secret that its name is redacted in the released email," King said. "If this facility is so secret that the name cannot even be seen by the public, then why in the world would the Obama administration allow filmmakers to tour it?"

The spy thriller, "Zero Dark Thirty," had been scheduled to hit theaters in October, right before the presidential election, but its release has been delayed to Dec. 19.

kim.geiger@latimes.com

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