May 23rd, 2012
06:20 PM ET

Filmmakers' access to bin Laden info

By Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell

Newly released documents have reignited the debate in Washington over whether Obama administration officials granted too much access to filmmakers making a movie about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden - and whether national security was compromised in the process.

The documents show, for example, that a defense official offered the filmmakers access to a planner from SEAL Team Six, the super-secret special ops division 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, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers told screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow that the defense department would offer up a plum interview.

"They'll make a guy available who was involved from the beginning as a planner; a SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander," Vickers said, according to the transcript.

The name of that man is blacked out in the transcript that was released, and Vickers tells the filmmakers not to reveal the man's identity.

"He shouldn't be talking out of school," Vickers says, but "he knows what he can and can't say."

"That's dynamite," says Boal, according to the transcript.

"That's incredible," says Bigelow.

"You're going to get a little bit of operational stuff," Vickers says, "but more really policy - like how did we make the decision, the risks, that kind of stuff."

It was not clear whether the SEAL team commander ever met with the filmmakers. A Pentagon spokesman said the Defense Department gave them no access to classified information about the raid.

But Rep. Peter King, R-New York, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, says the offer of access looks like a "potentially dangerous collaboration" and raises "very serious questions" about whether the administration is sufficiently protecting operational secrets.

"If this is too sensitive for the average person to know about," King said, "did Kathryn Bigelow have security clearance? Is she cleared to go in there?"

Fran Townsend, former White House homeland security adviser under President George W. Bush and a CNN contributor, called the revelations "troubling." She said revealing too much information about how the bin Laden raid was planned and executed could help other terrorists escape attempts to capture them.

"The understanding of how that happens is really very important to our enemies because then they know which information to withhold from us," she said. "We don't want to make that mission - attacking or targeting future al Qeada leaders - any more difficult than it already is."

"There's a real downside to giving too much access to Hollywood," she said.

The records were released to the Washington watchdog organization Judicial Watch, after it filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

According to e-mails among the documents, the filmmakers also met with acting CIA Director Michael Morrell, National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and White House Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan. The records also suggest that they were given a walk-though of the "vault" room used by the CIA when planning the raid.

A CIA spokesperson confirmed that CIA officers sometimes meet with writers and filmmakers to help make the portrayal of the CIA more accurate, but called those meetings unclassified. The spokesperson added that "the 'vault' in question, that had been used for planning the raid, was empty at the time of the filmmakers' visit."

Likewise, White House officials have said they did not give the filmmakers anything that was not also provided to journalists.

"The same information was given to the White House press corps," said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor. "We do not discuss classified information."

Administration officials have also rejected suggestions that they were hoping that a movie recounting the daring and successful raid ordered by President Barack Obama would burnish his image just when the presidential campaign reached its height.

The released documents show that the political strategy firm Glover Park Group, which has ties to Democrats, helped the filmmakers arrange meetings in Washington.

"To have Democratic consultants, lobbyists, having access with Hollywood producers to inner workings of the CIA, of the military, raises very serious questions," said Republican Rep. King.

But the filmmakers, whose representatives declined to comment Wedneday, have said in the past that the film would be about a non-partisan American triumph without regard for political affiliation.

And while the release of the film had once been anticipated for October, just weeks before election day, its release is not expected until December.

CNN's Suzanne Kelly, Brianna Keilar, and Larry Shaughnessy contributed to this report.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Everett Wallace

    No Special Ops. persons shall be in the public eye in this way. Hollywood there is too much at risk right now to be making movies about the reality of WAR! there are plenty of other movies to make, like the TRUTH about the Iraq wars they will bring BIG bucks to the boxoffice. As these things unravel the TRUTH about the Kennedy assasination. No movies about me, trying to play me will put you in a body bag and I want that for none of you.

    May 25, 2012 at 9:12 am | Reply
  2. 2012marandalaw

    I Cringe,when i Hear.."Motion Pictures",And The Pentagon,In The Same Sentence.

    May 24, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Reply
    • Sodomite

      I don't. I feel amusement. One can always use a good laugh.

      May 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  3. Antonio

    I would like to know how many US politicians and media houses did Saudis payoff to get them off their backs re: 9/11.
    Perhaps CNN can ask the Saudi ambassador to USA who was the Chief Saudi damage control officer in USA. This is not going to go away and will keep on coming up during the election campaign this fall in USA.

    May 24, 2012 at 8:22 am | Reply
    • Sodomite

      We'd much rather blame Iraq and Afghanistan, instead of the 15 Saudis who flew planes into our buildings.

      May 24, 2012 at 11:26 am | Reply
  4. John Walsh

    Another Obama election campaign manoeuvres gasping for oxygen. One term is all he is gonna get.

    May 24, 2012 at 8:20 am | Reply
  5. Gonna Put My Balls On The Top Of Your Head

    "Stirring backlash in Washington" in pissing off the perpetually pissed-off neocons? Good.

    May 23, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Reply

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