Judicial Watch Obtains Previously Classified CIA Inspector General Report Strongly Condemning Agency Handling of Briefings and Interviews with the Entertainment Industry
OCTOBER 28, 2015
Report specifically criticizes CIA’s briefings ‘in which foreign nationals may have participated’ specifically criticizes CIA interface with ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ filmmakers
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has received a previously classified December 2012 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) strongly condemning the agency’s handling of “briefings, interviews, visits, and other support” given to the entertainment industry. The report specifically criticizes the CIA’s granting of “Secret level” access to the makers of the movie Zero Dark Thirty. The OIG report was declassified in response to a Judicial Watch request for a Mandatory Declassification review.
The OIG “Report of Audit – CIA Processes for Engaging With the Entertainment Industry” is critical of both the agency’s procedures and its record-keeping:
We found that the records maintained by the OPA [Office of Public Affairs] are not sufficient to document that entertainment industry requests to CIA for briefings, interviews, visits, and other support are handled in a consistent and fair manner and that engagement with the entertainment industry is effective in furthering CIA’s goal for engagement … OPA and other CIA employees have not always complied with Agency regulations intended to prevent the release of classified information during their interactions with entertainment industry representatives.
While the heavily redacted document carefully avoids the disclosure of the eight projects it reviewed dating back to January 6, 2006, it specifically cites problems involving CIA interactions with the Zero Dark Thirty filmmakers. According to the OIG report, “There was an instance in which CIA allowed an entertainment industry representative to attend a CIA event in which information classified at the SECRET level was discussed.” The report then adds in a footnote:
CIA officials told us that the filmmaker involved with Zero Dark Thirty was invited to the event so that he could absorb the emotion of the event and that he was told he could not use anything he heard at the event for his project. During our audit fieldwork, the then Director, CIA called for an internal examination of the decision to allow the entertainment industry representative to attend the event.
The CIA Inspector General cites one project in particular that was given “significantly more support” than any of the others reviewed. Though the project is not identified, it is an apparent reference to Zero Dark Thirty:
[W]e noted that the CIA provided significantly more support to one of the eight entertainment industry projects that we reviewed: [REDACTED]. Entertainment industry representatives for this project met with [REDACTED] CIA officers (the majority of whom were under cover) … on multiple occasions, including meeting with one officer 12 times.
The newly-released OIG report also questioned the CIA’s granting of access to foreign nationals who may not have received proper screening before their briefings, warning of possible “negative consequences for the CIA:
We also noted three entertainment projects [REDACTED] in which foreign nationals may have participated in briefings, interviews, and visits provided by the CIA. However, because of the lack of adequate records, we were unable to determine the extent of CIA’s support to the eight projects, the extent to which foreign nationals participated in CIA-sponsored activities, and whether the Director, OPA approved of the activities and participation of foreign nationals.
Failure on the part of CIA officers to adhere to regulatory requirements could result in unauthorized disclosures, inappropriate actions and negative consequences for CIA. [Emphasis added]
The CIA IG also concluded that taxpayers were not compensated for the assistance CIA provided to Hollywood film projects:
CIA Has Not Been Reimbursed for Costs Incurred in Supporting Entertainment Industry Projects …
The CIA needs to establish a written policy concerning under what conditions reimbursement of costs incurred in providing support to entertainment industry projects should be sought. In the absence of a formal policy, there is increased risk that costs incurred by CIA will not be handled in a consistent manner and that CIA funds may be used for questionable expenditures.
“The Obama administration put Hollywood before national security in order to help Barack Obama win reelection,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Has anyone been held accountable for these illegal leaks? The Obama administration put the heroes who killed Osama bin Laden at risk in order to help make this film.”
On May 1, 2011, President Obama announced that American personnel had killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and buried his body at sea. President Obama ordered the withholding of photos and video of the deceased bin Laden and his burial at sea, claiming it would be unwise to “spike the football” over bin Laden’s killing, as it might be offensive to al Qaeda and other terrorists.
Judicial Watch also immediately requested these photos from the Defense Department and CIA and then, when denied them, sued for their release in federal court. An appellate court upheld President Obama’s decision to withhold the records from American citizens because the records might offend terrorists.
Other Judicial Watch litigation forced the release of records showing a cover-up and the dangerous disclosure of classified information, as the Obama administration sought to promote the raid to aid Obama’s reelection while at the same time withholding basic information about the raid from the American people.
In response to the Judicial Watch January 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit concerning the unusual access given to Zero Dark Thirty filmmakers, CIA Information Review Officer Martha Lutz conceded:
It is my understanding that when the meetings with the filmmakers took place at the CIA Headquarters, the guidance provided to the officers who were undercover or were otherwise in sensitive positions was that they should provide the filmmakers with their true first names only.
Vice News separately obtained remarkable documents that it released last month which highlight even more corruption at the Obama CIA as the agency tried to promote the pro-Obama film for the White House. Vice News reported that the CIA OIG found several potential violations of criminal law by then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, CIA officials, and the filmmakers. The Obama Justice Department refused to prosecute any of the alleged violations.
(Note: The original incorrectly and unintentionally suggested that Vice News obtained the records through Judicial Watch.)