Just weeks after President Obama ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, senior administration officials granted two Hollywood filmmakers unusually high-level access to information about the operation, including private meetings with a SEAL Team 6 commander and a tour of the secret CIA “Vault” where the mission was planned, according to new documents released last night. The 266-page cache, obtained by the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, is part of a Pentagon investigation into reports from last summer that claimed the Obama administration gave inappropriate access to the filmmakers, at the same time that the White House was cracking down on leaks about the raid. At the time, the White House dismissed the story as “ridiculous.”
But the newly revealed documents show that senior administration officials spent quite a bit of time helping Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal arrange special interviews and conduct research or their upcoming movie about the raid.
Here are the highlights from the trove:
- At a July 14 meeting, the DOD Under Secretary of defence for Intelligence Michael Vickers gave the filmmakers the identity of a “planner, SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander” and promised to arrange an interview, on the condition that they keep him anonymous (the name is blacked out on the transcript.) Boal’s response: “That’s dynamite” and “You delivered.”
- At that meeting, Vickers told the filmmakers that in late 2009, American intelligence officials located — and then lost track of — Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, the courier that eventually led them to bin Laden. According to Gawker reporter John Cook, that detail has never been reported before.
- According to the meeting transcript, Boal met with Obama’s Counterterrorism advisor John Brennan and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough on at least two occasions to talk about the movie. Boal says that they were “forward leaning and interested in sharing their point of view; command and control.”
- Vickers also told the filmmakers that Leon Panetta was “very interested in supporting” their project.
- A June 27 email suggests that the White House helped arrange the meeting between Vickers and the filmmakers. Another email, from July 13, indicates that the filmmakers’ visit to the Pentagon and the CIA was set up by The Glover Park Group, a Democratic-leaning lobbying firm.
- An internal CIA email shows that Bigelow and Boal were allowed to visit “The Vault,” the classified CIA facility where the tactical planning for the raid took place.
- The Pentagon was apparently aware that the filmmakers’ special treatment might cause some tension with the media: “I think this looks very good as a way forward, and agree particularly that we need to be careful here so we don’t open the media floodgates on this,” a DOD Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs wrote in a June email. And Politico’s Josh Gerstein flags this line, from an internal CIA email: “We’re trying to keep [Boal’s] visits at HQs a bit quiet, because of the sensitivities surrounding who gets to participates in this (sic) types of things…I’m sure you understand.”
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