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DOD Officials Disclosed to Filmmakers Identity of SEAL Team Six Operator and Commander; Ask Film Director to Withhold Operator’s Name, ‘because he shouldn’t be talking out of school.’

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it has obtained records from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) regarding meetings and communications between government agencies and Kathryn Bigelow, Academy Award-winning director of The Hurt Locker, and screenwriter Mark Boal.  According to the records, the Obama Defense Department granted Bigelow and Boal access to a “planner, Operator and Commander of SEAL Team Six,” which was responsible for the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, to assist Bigelow prepare her upcoming feature film.

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The records, obtained pursuant to court order in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed on January 21, 2012, include 153 pages of records from the DOD and 113 pages of records from the CIA (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense (No. 1:12-cv-00049)).  The documents were delivered to Judicial Watch late last Friday (May 18). The following are the highlights from the records, which include internal Defense Department email correspondence as well as a transcript from a key July 14, 2011, meeting between DOD officials, Bigelow and Boal:

  • A transcript of a July 14, 2011, meeting between DOD officials, including Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers, Bigelow and Boal indicates that Boal met directly with White House officials on at least two occasions regarding the film: “I took your guidance and spoke to the WH and had a good meeting with Brennan and McDonough and I plan to follow up with them; and they were forward leaning and interested in sharing their point of view; command and control; so that was great, thank you,” Boal said according to the transcript. Vickers asks if the meeting was a follow-up, to which Boal responds, “Yes correct; this was a follow-up.”  The documents seemingly reference John O. Brennan, Chief Counterterrorism Advisor to President Obama and Denis McDonough, who serves as President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor.
  • The July 14, 2011, meeting transcript also reveals that the DOD provided the filmmakers with the identity of a “planner, SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander.”  (The name is blacked out in the document.)  In proposing the arrangement, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers said: “The only thing we ask is that you not reveal his name in any way as a consultant because . . . he shouldn’t be talking out of school.” Vickers went on to say during the meeting at the Pentagon: “This at least, this gives him one step removed and he knows what he can and can’t say, but this way at least he can be as open as he can with you and it ought to meet your needs.” Boal later responds, “You delivered.”
  • A July 13, 2011, internal CIA email indicates that Bigelow and Boal were granted access to “the Vault,” which is described the CIA building where some of the tactical planning for the bin Laden raid took place:  “I was given your name as the POC in [redacted] who could determine the feasibility of having a potential walk-through of…the Vault in the [redacted] building that was used for some of the tactical planning in the Bin Laden Raid [sic]. In consultation with the Office of Public Affairs and as part of the larger chronicling of the Bin Laden raid, OPA will be hosting some visitors sanctioned by ODCIA this Friday afternoon.”  (The name of the sender is blacked out.)  “Of course this is doable,” an official responds.
  • DOD Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Douglas Wilson told colleagues in a June 13, 2011, email to limit media access and that he would follow up with the White House: “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. I’m going to check with WH to update them on status, and will report back.” A day later, he wrote Department of Defense communications staffers, saying: “Ok to set up the second session with Vickers. I am getting additional guidance from WH.”
  • Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers told Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Douglas Wilson and two other DOD communications staffers in a June 13, 2011, email that “[DOD] would like to shape the story to prevent any gross inaccuracies, but do not want to make it look like the commanders think it’s okay to talk to the media.” The email went on to say: “For the intelligence case, they are basically using the WH-approved talking points we used the night of the operation.” The talking points called the raid “a ‘Gutsy Decision’ by the POTUS,” adding that “WH involvement was critical.”
  • A June 9, 2011, email from Commander Bob Mehal, Public Affairs Officer for Defense Press Operations, to Vickers and other DOD staff summarizes a meeting with Boal and notes the release date for the film: “Release date set for 4th Qtr 2012…”
  • A July 13, 2011, email to Commander Bob Mehal, Public Affairs Officer for Defense Press Operations, indicates that Sarah Zukowski, an associate for The Glover Park Group, arranged the July 14, 2011 visit by Bigelow and Boal to the DOD and the CIA. The Glover Park Group is described by Politico as a Democratic-leaning advocacy firm.”
  • A June 27, 2011, email to an official at the Office of the Secretary of Defense suggests that the request from Bigelow and Boal to meet with Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers came via the White House press office. A June 22, 2011, email to Commander Bob Mehal, Public Affairs Officer for Defense Press Operations notes, “The White House does want to engage with Mark but it probably won’t be for a few more weeks. We should provide them a read-out of the session you do with Vickers.”  The name of the White House official who forwarded the request is blacked out.

Judicial Watch launched its investigation of Bigelow’s meetings with the Obama administration following press reports suggesting that the Obama administration may have leaked classified information to the director as source material for Bigelow’s film.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that the information leak was designed to help the Obama 2012 presidential reelection campaign: “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 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.”

In addition to Judicial Watch’s pursuit of the bin Laden film records, the organization continues to fight in court for the release of the bin Laden post-mortem photos and video. The Obama administration continues to withhold these records citing national security concerns.

“These documents, which took nine months and a federal lawsuit to disgorge from the Obama administration, show that politically-connected film makers were giving extraordinary and secret access to bin Laden raid information, including the identity of a Seal Team Six leader,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is both ironic and hypocritical that the Obama administration stonewalled Judicial Watch’s pursuit of the bin Laden death photos, citing national security concerns, yet seemed willing to share intimate details regarding the raid to help Hollywood filmmakers release a movie ‘perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost’ to the Obama campaign.”

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Years after Judicial Watch uncovered explosive records showing that Congress approved the U.S. government’s terrorist interrogation program the mainstream media is finally interested because a former CIA counterterrorism chief has confirmed it in his new book.

The fact of the matter is that a JW investigation long ago exposed this congressional scandal. Enhanced interrogation techniques, utilized to extract valuable intelligence from al Qaeda terrorists, came under fire from leftwing civil rights groups that claim they amount to torture. As a result, President Obama banned the program during his first week in office and many liberal lawmakers pretended to have no knowledge of it. Some even denied getting briefed on the techniques by intelligence officials.

Among them is former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the veteran congresswoman from northern California. In an apparent effort to avoid alienating her liberal base, Pelosi actually denied getting briefed by the CIA on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques that have demonstrably stopped terrorist attacks and saved American lives. Back in February 2010 JW obtained government records that essentially left Pelosi with egg on her face.

The documents, once marked “Top Secret,” reveal that between 2001 and 2007 the CIA briefed at least 68 members of Congress on its interrogation program, including so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The documents have lots of details, including the dates of all congressional briefings and the members of Congress in attendance. Pelosi is specifically referenced in a briefing that took place on April 24, 2002, regarding the “ongoing interrogations of Abu Zubaydah,” the third-ranking figure in al Qaeda.

This week a mainstream newspaper reports this two-year-old news as earth-shattering because a former CIA counterterrorism chief named Jose Rodriguez includes it in his new book. It turns out that Rodriguez led the CIA briefing of Pelosi and he assures that the congresswoman was told about the techniques being used in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. Pelosi was told that, as a result of the techniques, including waterboarding, Abu Zubaydah provided good intelligence. In all, Pelosi was informed about ten tactics that were being used to interrogate terrorists, Rodriguez writes in his book.   

A multitude of detainee documents obtained in the course of JW’s lengthy investigation detail the effectiveness of the now-defunct enhanced interrogation program, which helped save lives in the United States and overseas by foiling terrorist plots. The records also show that members of Congress approved and were well aware of the use of these enhanced interrogation techniques and their lifesaving value.



“Under FOIA…the American people have a right to these historical artifacts…”

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it has filed a new court document in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DOD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) seeking “all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama (Usama) bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011” (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense et al. (No. 1:11-cv-00890)).  Judicial Watch filed its lawsuit on May 13, 2011.

On December 14, 2011, Judicial Watch filed a “Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and in Support of Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment.”  (In order for a Motion for Summary Judgment to be granted by the court, the moving party must demonstrate that there are “no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”)  Judicial Watch also seeks a court hearing on the matter.

Judicial Watch contends that the Obama administration’s arguments for withholding the bin Laden documents should fail because it has “failed to satisfy even the most basic requirements of FOIA.”  The agency has failed to provide sufficient evidence that it has conducted an adequate search for responsive records or demonstrate that the records were properly classified pursuant to President Obama’s Executive Order 13526 signed on December 29, 2009 which provided a “uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information.”  The Obama administration has also failed to provide any evidence of “whether the withheld records are photographs or video recordings, accounted for the various circumstances in which the records were created, or sufficiently correlated specific claims of exemption to particular records or categories of records.”

Conversely, Judicial Watch contends that its “Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment” should be granted because the Defendants “cannot legally justify their claims of exemption” for some of the withheld records.  Judicial Watch “does not seek the production of any photographs or video recordings that have been properly classified or would actually cause harm to the national security by revealing intelligence methods or the identity of U.S. personnel or classified technology.  [Judicial Watch] solely seeks those records that have not been properly classified as well as those records for which no military or intelligence secrets would be revealed.”

Judicial Watch concludes that the American people “have a right to these historical artifacts to capture this moment.  To date, the government has failed to provide a legally sufficient justification for why such records must not be released.  Therefore, the government must be held accountable.  The law requires it.”

On May 4, 2011, President Obama told CBS News in an interview that he would not release the death photos of Osama bin Laden, who was captured and killed by U.S. Navy Seals, to the public, saying “we don’t need to spike the football” or “gloat.”  Obama’s decision reportedly came after a debate within his administration.  CIA Director Leon Panetta said some photos would be released.  But Defense Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Clinton reportedly lobbied against it.

“We shouldn’t appease our enemies by undermining our nation’s core government accountability law – the Freedom of Information Act.  We suspect the administration is playing shell games with the bin Laden death photos and video.  President Obama is asking the court to allow his administration to withhold documents simply because their disclosure may cause controversy.  There is simply no legal precedent for this,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “President Obama’s political calculations are no substitute for the rule of law. The Obama administration has no legal right to withhold this material from the American people, especially now that he is using this military victory in his presidential campaign.  The killing of Osama bin Laden is a tremendous historic event.  The law simply doesn’t allow President Obama to put the bin Laden photos and video down the memory hole.”

Most Americans may not know that the government agency responsible for providing national security data to the nation’s senior policymakers, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), operates a special center dedicated to global warming.That’s because the CIA doesn’t want anyone to know what goes on in its two-year-old Center on Climate Change and National Security. So the exclusive unit, led by “senior specialists,” operates under a cloak of secrecy that rejects all public-records requests, despite President Obama’s promise to run a transparent government.When the center was launched in 2009, the CIA said it would not address the science of climate change but rather the national security impact of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts and heightened competition for natural resources. The new division was touted as an important tool that would bring together in a single place expertise on an important national security topic; the effect environmental factors can have on political, economic and social stability overseas.Reasonably, some U.S. taxpayers want to know what exactly the center has been doing with their money.  After all, Obama has repeatedly assured the country that he will run the most transparent administration in history. So why not reveal some of the CIA’s findings on the impacts of global warming? After all, the administration has dedicated huge amounts of money to combat the ills of global warming so why not make public some of the “intelligence” that could justify the investment?Because everything the CIA’s climate center does is a national security secret, according to a report published this month by a group of scientists dedicated to exposing government secrecy. The group cites a categorical denial by the CIA to a benign Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for a copy of any study or report concerning the impacts of global warming. The request was made by an intelligence historian affiliated with the National Security Archive.If he was blown off, the average American would most certainly get the shaft from the CIA for its “classified” global warming records. The group that exposed this story points out that the CIA’s response indicates a fundamental lack of discernment that calls into question the integrity of the Center on Climate Change, if not the agency as a whole. It further asks; if the CIA really thinks that every document produced by the center constitutes a potential threat to national security, who can expect the center to say anything intelligent or useful about climate change?Interestingly, when the CIA global warming center opened the agency said it would coordinate with intelligence community partners on the review and declassification of imagery and other data that could be of use to scientists in their own climate-related research.

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Washington, DC — June 9, 2011

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has joined the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DOD). In the lawsuit Judicial Watch is seeking access “to all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama (Usama) bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency (No.11-00890)).
Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request with the CIA on May 4.The CIA has 20 business days legally to respond to a FOIA request. While acknowledging receipt of the FOIA request on May 23, the CIA has since failed to produce any documents or demonstrate that responsive records are exempt from production. The agency has not indicated whether, or when, any responsive records will be produced. Judicial Watch filed an identical FOIA request with the DOD on May 2, and is now engaged in an active lawsuit against the DOD, and now the CIA as well, for failure to produce the photos and videos.“The American people by law have a right to know basic information about the killing of Osama bin Laden. President Obama’s personal reluctance to release the documents is not a lawful basis for withholding them. The Obama administration will now need to justify its lack of compliance in federal court. This historic lawsuit should remind the administration that it is not above the law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

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