By Adam Levine
The Central Intelligence Agency says it "inadvertently overlooked" documents related to its assistance to filmmakers creating a movie about the Osama bin Laden raid and failed to hand them over as part of a lawsuit against the CIA and the Department of Defense.
The oversight was revealed in a court document filed as part of the lawsuit by Judicial Watch, which is seeking information about how much the CIA and Pentagon disclosed about the raid by cooperating with filmmakers.
"The CIA discovered a 4- to 5-inch stack of records," according to the filing by the government's attorney, Marcia Berman. "From its initial review of the documents, the CIA has determined that the newly discovered documents are responsive to plaintiff's request but contain some duplicates of produced records."
The number of documents found is "approximately 30 new documents (primarily e-mails), with many documents containing multiple pages," according to the filing.
"These documents were supposed to be turned over to us two months ago under a federal court order," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. "This new 'discovery' and resulting delay stinks to high heaven - maybe an independent criminal leak investigation can look into this issue, too."
The government has asked the court for an extension until August 24 to properly review the documents but Judicial Watch is objecting to the request.
"They are suggesting that many are duplicative, so even less reason," not to turn them over sooner, he said.
The assistance to moviemakers has been roundly criticized by some Republican members of Congress. Rep. King Peter King of New York claimed that the White House gave the filmmakers access to top White House and Pentagon officials with knowledge of the bin Laden raid. An original release date just before the election was seen as a boon to the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama. It has since been pushed to a later date.
The filmmakers included director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who made the Oscar-winning movie "The Hurt Locker."
When King first made the movie an issue, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that "there is no difference in the information that we have given to anybody that is working on this topic from what we gave to those of you in this room who worked on it in the days and weeks after the raid itself."
He added, "We do not discuss classified information, and I would hope as we face a continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie."
Documents released in May to Judicial Watch as a result of its Freedom of Information lawsuit reignited the debate in Washington over whether national security was compromised in the process of helping the filmmakers.
The documents showed, for example, that a defense official offered the filmmakers access to a planner from SEAL Team 6, the super-secret Special Operations unit that successfully executed the high-stakes raid in Pakistan last year.
It is not clear if any such access eventually took place. But according to a transcript from the meeting, on July 14 of last year, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers told Bigelow and Boal that the defense department would offer up a plum interview.
Last August, Bigelow and Boal released a statement regarding the movie which read in part, "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."
The CIA is looking into how the newly found documents were overlooked, the filing said, "to ensure the adequacy of its search." The plaintiffs have not yet been given the documents.
The CIA declined to comment on matters before the court.
– Larry Shaughnessy, Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd contributed to this report