The killing of Osama bin Laden last year was referenced repeatedly this week at the Democratic National Convention. This is ironic, as President Obama, in denying requests for basic information about the raid, said he wasn’t going to release the information because he didn’t want to be seen as “spiking the football.”
As there is no spiking-the-football exception to our open-records laws, Judicial Watch initiated a federal court battle with the administration over the release of postmortem images of bin Laden and his alleged burial at sea.
So we were amazed to see a Maureen Dowd column in the New York Times disclosing that the administration may have leaked classified information to the Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow for a film on the bin Laden raid: “The White House is also counting on the Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal big-screen version of the killing of bin Laden to counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual. The Sony film [sic] by the Oscar-winning pair who made ‘The Hurt Locker’ will no doubt reflect the president’s cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds. Just as Obamaland was hoping, the movie is scheduled to open on Oct. 12, 2012 — perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher.” We also asked for documents about those leaks, were stonewalled and had to sue “the most transparent administration in history” to get the documents about Ms. Bigelow’s access. (As Ms. Dowd noted, the film reportedly was scheduled for an October 2012 release, just before the presidential election, but promotional trailers are running now until the rescheduled release in December.)
We forced the release of documents last May that detailed the inappropriate access filmmakers were given to a Pentagon briefing that included the disclosure of the identity of a “planner, SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander.” Also referenced were White House meetings with John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser.
Now, according to new records “found” by the CIA and dumped on us two weeks ago, not only did Mr. Boal and Ms. Bigelow have unusual access in preparation for their film, but the Obama White House was keenly interested in the movie.
The latest document dump includes a June 15, 2011, email from Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications: The White House was intent on “trying to have visibility into the [Osama bin Laden] projects and this is likely the most high profile one. Would like to have whatever group is going around in here at the [White House] to get a sense of what they’re doing / what cooperation they’re seeking.”
Mr. Obama’s political appointees had stars in their eyes over their Hollywood connections. CIA press official Marie E. Harf discussed providing preferential treatment to the Boal-Bigelow project over others related to the bin Laden killing: “I know we don’t pick favorites but it makes sense to get behind a winning horse. Mark and Kathryn’s movie is going to be the first and the biggest. It’s got the most money behind it, and two Oscar winners on board.”
In a July 20, 2011, email, Mr. Boal (Ms. Bigelow’s screenwriter) writes to thank then-CIA Director of Public Affairs George E. Little (now with the Pentagon) for “pulling” for him with the agency, noting that it made “all the difference.” Mr. Little responds: “I can’t tell you how excited we all are (at Pentagon and CIA) about the project. PS — I want you to know how good I’ve been not mentioning the premiere tickets.)”
The latest documents also disclose troubling new leaks. In another email, Ms. Harf advises Mr. Little that Mr. Boal and Ms. Bigelow would be “meeting individually with both [name redacted] and the translator who was on the raid .” Ms. Harf separately describes Mr. Boal’s contact with the agency as being a “deep dive.” Ms. Harf also helps the filmmakers with nonpublic details of the layout of bin Laden’s compound.
And what about that Dowd column? On Aug. 5, 2011, Ms. Harf exchanged several emails with New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti about the film and Ms. Dowd’s soon-to-be famous column about the film. Mr. Mazzetti gave Ms. Harf an advance copy of the column, with the caveat, “This didn’t come from me and please delete after you read. See, nothing to worry about!” (The coziness between the New York Times reporter and the CIA caused quite a stir in the media, including some self-criticism and internal strife at the Gray Lady.)
All these documents corroborate Ms. Dowd’s criticisms that the Obama team was giving the filmmakers classified information in support of a movie it hoped would boost Mr. Obama’s campaign.
No wonder we’ve had to fight one year of stonewalling from the administration to get these documents. Though some of the pro-Obama media have tried to spin them otherwise, these new documents show there is no doubt that the Obama White House was intensely interested in this film that was set to portray Mr. Obama, to quote from the documents, as “gutsy.”
Last month saw the release of a new book, written by one of the Navy SEALs who took part in the raid, that reveals details of the bin Laden capture that are materially different from the White House narrative. Sure enough, the author is being threatened with prosecution by the Obama administration and was attacked specifically by Pentagon spokesman George Little (the same guy who wanted the “premiere tickets” to the bin Laden film).
One wonders if anyone will be prosecuted in the Obama administration for giving filmmakers a “deep dive” into bin Laden raid secrets, such as the names of a “commander” and “interpreter” involved with the raid.