Judicial Watch • JW Sues CIA for Guest List from 2011 bin Laden Assault Awards Where Panetta Revealed “Top Secret” Information

JW Sues CIA for Guest List from 2011 bin Laden Assault Awards Where Panetta Revealed “Top Secret” Information

JW Sues CIA for Guest List from 2011 bin Laden Assault Awards Where Panetta Revealed “Top Secret” Information

AUGUST 08, 2013

Draft IG report accused former CIA Director of revealing name of SEAL unit and ground commander that carried out bin Laden raid at ceremony attended by “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Mark Boal 

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on June 21, 2013, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) seeking access to records identifying attendees at a June 24, 2011, awards ceremony for individuals involved in the search for and killing of Osama bin Laden. The lawsuit also seeks all records of communications from CIA employees regarding the attendance of “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Mark Boal at the event. (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Central Intelligence Agency (No. 1:13-cv-00945)).

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Judicial Watch seeks the following records pursuant to a December 19, 2012, FOIA request:

  • Any and all guest lists or other records identifying individuals who attended and/or were invited to attend the June 24, 2011 awards ceremony at CIA Headquarters for individuals involved in the search for, and killing of, Osama bin Laden
  • Any and all records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Central Intelligence Agency and any other party regarding the attendance of Mr. Mark Boal at the aforementioned awards ceremony.

By letter dated December 27, 2012, the CIA acknowledged having received Judicial Watch’s request on December 19, 2012. The letter stated that it was unlikely the CIA could respond to the request within 20 working days as required by law, adding, “You have the right to consider our honest appraisal as a denial of your request and you may appeal to the Agency Release Panel.” Because the statement was not an adverse determination within the meaning of the law, however, no administrative appeal was possible, therefore Judicial Watch filed the June 21, 2013, FOIA lawsuit.

On June 5, 2013, Politico reported:

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama bin Laden raid and named the unit’s ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Mark Boal.

Panetta also discussed classified information designated as “top secret” and “secret” during his presentation at the awards ceremony, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight.

According to a CIA news release, the purpose of the ceremony was to honor “the dedication and commitment of CIA officers, military service members, and Intelligence Community partners for their work on the historic operation that concluded the hunt for Usama Bin Ladin.” But the guest list also included filmmaker Boal, who had been invited to attend what Fox News reported as “a speech classified as secret to a group of CIA attendees.”

During the speech, according to the draft Pentagon inspector general’s report, “Director Panetta specifically recognized the unit that conducted the raid and identified the ground commander by name.” The draft report added, “Director Panetta also provided DoD information, identified by relevant Original Classification Authorities as TOP SECRET….” The final inspector general’s report omitted any reference to Panetta’s speech, a Pentagon spokesperson saying the matter had been referred to the CIA IG.

The inclusion of Boal at the CIA ceremony was not the only instance of the Obama administration attempting to influence the production of the “Zero Dark Thirty” movie by leaking classified information. In August 2012 – after having repeatedly been told by the Obama administration that nothing inappropriate had been leaked – Judicial Watch obtained “overlooked” documents from the CIA and the Department of Defense (DOD) through FOIA lawsuit regarding meetings and communications between government agencies, Boal, and film director Kathryn Bigelow, in which the filmmakers were apparently provided classified details about the bin Laden assault.

The documents, which the CIA and DOD held back for eight months, revealed that the Obama administration sought to have “high visibility” into bin Laden-related projects, and granted Boal and Bigelow unusual access to agency information in preparation for their film. In a June 15, 2011, email to Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Benjamin Rhodes, then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Doug Wilson noted that “Boal has been working with us and with the CIA (via George Little) for initial context briefings – at DoD this has been provided by Mike Vickers, and at CIA by relevant officials with the full knowledge and full approval/support of Director Panetta.”

Just one month after the Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit revelations, the Pentagon Inspector General made a criminal referral to the Holder Department of Justice (DOJ) implicating Undersecretary of Defense Michael Vickers in the improper release of classified information.  Obama administration officials later disclosed in sworn court documents related to the Judicial Watch lawsuit that the sensitive information released to Bigelow and Boal could cause an “unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk” if released to the public. To date, the Holder DOJ has failed to file any charges against those responsible for the leaks.

“Panetta’s disclosures at the CIA ceremony with Mark Boal present, along with the leaks revealed in the earlier documents obtained by Judicial Watch, provide conclusive backing to the serious charge that the Obama administration has played fast and loose with national security information in order to help Hollywood filmmakers make a pro-Obama film,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “In light of the Manning conviction and Snowden drama, it is clear that the Obama administration is more than a little two-faced when it comes to enforcing the law on illegal leaks.”

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