ABC News’ John R. Parkinson (@JRPabcDC) reports:
New York Rep. Pete King, the chairman of the House committee on Homeland Security, is calling for an investigation into reports that the Obama Administration has granted Sony Pictures high-level access for a film on the covert mission that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
King writes that he is concerned “regarding ongoing leaks of classified information regarding sensitive military operations” and warns that close cooperation on the Hollywood action-thriller could lead to further leaks that could undermine the success of future operations.
“Leaks of classified information regarding the bin Laden raid have already resulted, according to a June 15, 2011 article in the Washington Post, in the arrests of Pakistanis who were believed by local authorities to have assisted the CIA with the May 1st raid,” King, R-New York, writes in a letter addressed to Defense Department Inspector General Gordon Heddell and CIA Inspector General David Buckley. “Further participation by JSOC and the Agency in making a film about the raid is bound to increase such leaks, and undermine these organizations’ hard-won reputations as “quiet professionals” − reputations important for their continued operational success. And, the success of these organizations is vital to our continued homeland security.”
At today’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney told ABC News' Jake Tapper that King's allegations are “ridiculous” and “simply false.”
“When people, including you, in this room, are working on articles, books, documentaries or movies that involve the president, ask to speak to administration officials, we do our best to accommodate them to make sure the facts are correct. That is hardly a novel approach to the media," Carney said. "We do not discuss classified information, and I would hope that as we face the continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie."
"The information that this White House provided about that mission has been focused on the president role in — there is no difference in the information that we've given to anybody who's working on this topic from what we gave to those of you in this room who worked on it as — in the days and weeks after the raid itself," he added. "In fact, the most specific information we've given from this White House about the actual raid I read to you from this podium. So it's just simply false.”
The film is to be directed by American film director Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Oscar for directing “The Hurt Locker” – which won seven total Oscars in 2010, including best picture. Mark Boal, who worked with Bigelow on the blockbuster, has also signed on to produce the Bin Laden movie.
The project is currently untitled but is expected to be released October 2012, just a month before the election.
Late this afternoon, Bigelow and Boal released a joint statement pushing back against the notion that the project will be used to help bolster Obama's reelection campaign.
“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, as well as the cooperative strategies and implementation by the department of defense and the CIA," the duo stated. "Indeed, the dangerous work of finding the world’s most wanted man was carried out by individuals in the military and intelligence communities who put their lives at risk for the greater good without regard for political affiliation. This was an American triumph, both heroic, and non-partisan and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise.”
A Pentagon spokesman said the DOD has provided some assistance with script research, but will not provide any actual support until there is a script to review.
“This film project is only in the script development phase, and DoD is providing assistance with script research, which is something we commonly do for established filmmakers. Until there is a script to review, and a request for equipment or other DoD support, there is no formal agreement for DoD support," said spokesman Col. Dave Lapan
"When people working on articles, books, documentaries or movies that involve the Department of Defense request assistance, we do our best to accommodate them to make sure the facts are correct. We do not discuss classified information," he said.
King became particularly concerned after reading New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's article on the topic over the weekend.
"The moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration," Dowd wrote August 6. "It was clear that the White House had outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood when Boal got welcomed to the upper echelons of the White House and the Pentagon and showed up recently — to the surprise of some military officers — at a C.I.A. ceremony celebrating the hero Seals."
Citing senior officials’ concern about too much information already out about this mission, and highlighting how previous leaks related to the raid had led to the arrests of Pakistanis, King decided to request a formal investigation.
“The Administration’s first duty in declassifying material is to provide full reporting to Congress and the American people, in an effort to build public trust through transparency of government,” King added. “In contrast, this alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history.”
King also requests the inspectors general:
- What consultations, if any, occurred between members of the Executive Office of the President, and Department of Defense and/or CIA officials, regarding the advisability of providing Hollywood executives with access to covert military operators and clandestine CIA officers to discuss the UBL raid?
- Will a copy of this film be submitted to the military and CIA for pre-publication review, to determine if special operations tactics, techniques and procedures, or Agency intelligence sources and methods, would be revealed by its release?
- How was the attendance of filmmakers at a meeting with special operators and Agency officers at CIA Headquarters balanced against those officers’ duties to maintain their covers? How will cover concerns be addressed going forward?
- What steps did the Administration take to ensure that no special operations tactics, techniques, and procedures were compromised during those meetings?
- To the extent possible to determine, how many human intelligence sources and how many Agency intelligence methods have been compromised due to leaks about the May 1st raid? What effects have these compromises had on the CIA’s collection capabilities? Will Agency participation in a film about the bin Laden raid add to or exacerbate the effects of these compromises?
ABC News' Jake Tapper and Luis Martinez contributed reporting.