Judicial Watch Obtains Stack of ‘Overlooked’ CIA Records Detailing Meetings with bin Laden Filmmakers
AUGUST 28, 2012
Obama Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications:
Obama White House ‘trying to have visibility into the UBL (Usama bin Laden) projects.’
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained records from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Department of Defense (DOD) regarding meetings and communications between government agencies and Kathryn Bigelow, the Academy Award-winning director of The Hurt Locker, and screenwriter Mark Boal in preparation for their film Zero Dark Thirty, which details the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. According to the records, the Obama administration granted Boal and Bigelow unusual access to agency information in preparation for their film, which was reportedly scheduled for an October 2012 release, just before the presidential election, but the trailers are running now until the rescheduled release in December.
The records – which should have been produced months ago pursuant to a court order in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed on January 21, 2012 – include records from a “stack” of “overlooked” documents discovered by the CIA in July 2012. The following are highlights from the records, which include internal DOD, White House and CIA email correspondence with the filmmakers:
- According to a June 15, 2011, email from Benjamin Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, to then Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Doug Wilson, then-CIA Director of Public Affairs George Little, and Deputy White House Press Secretary Jaime Smith, the Obama White House was intent on “trying to have visibility into the UBL (Usama bin Laden) projects.”
“…we are trying to have visibility into the UBL projects and this is likely the most high profile one. Would like to have whatever group is going around in here at the WH [White House] to get a sense of what they’re doing / what cooperation they’re seeking. Jamie will be POC [point of contact].”
- According to e-mail exchange on June 7, 2011, CIA spokesperson Marie E. Harf openly discussed providing preferential treatment to the Boal/Bigelow project over others related to the bin Laden killing: “I know we don’t pick favorites but it makes sense to get behind a winning horse…Mark and Kathryn’s movie is going to be the first and the biggest. It’s got the most money behind it, and two Oscar winners on board…”
- In a July 20, 2011, e-mail, Mark Boal writes to thank then-CIA Director of Public Affairs George Little for “pulling for him” with the agency, noting that it made, “all the difference.” Little responds: “…I can’t tell you how excited we all are (at DOD and CIA) about the project…PS – I want you to know how good I’ve been not mentioning the premiere tickets. :)”
- On July 13, 2011, Mark Boal’s assistant, Jonathan Leven, sent CIA spokesperson Marie Harf a copy of the floor plan of the bin Laden compound and asked him to verify its accuracy: “Per your conversation with Mark, can you verify whether this floor plan is accurate?” The next day Harf responds: “Ok, I checked with our folks, and that floor plan matches with what we have. It looks legit to us.”
- On July 14, 2011, Mark Boal asks CIA spokesperson Marie Harf to provide detailed information regarding the third floor of the compound that were not present on the open-source floor plan: “Would you mind looking into getting us some of the third floor specs…as the open source plan is missing those: height of wall, etc..? We will be building a full scale replica of the house. Including the inhabitants of the animal pen!” Harf responds minutes later: “Ha! Of course I don’t mind! I’ll work on that tomorrow…
- In an internal CIA memo regarding Kathryn Bigelow’s visit to agency headquarters dated July 14, 2011, CIA spokesperson Marie Harf describes Boal’s contact with the agency as a “deep dive.” (The memo was originally classified Secret.): “Kathryn is not interested in doing the deep dives that Mark did; she simply wants to meet the people Mark has been talking to.”
- On August 5, 2011, CIA Spokesperson Marie Harf exchanges several e-mails with New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti about the Boal/Bigelow project and, specifically, about a column by Maureen Dowd to be published August 7, 2011, making critical reference to the access the filmmakers were given. Mazzetti gave Harf an advance copy of the article, with the caveat, “this didn’t come from me… and please delete after you read. See, nothing to worry about!”
- In a June 15, 2011, e-mail, to Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Benjamin Rhodes, Doug Wilson notes that the cooperation that Boal and Bigelow had been getting from the CIA was with the “full knowledge and full approval/support” of Director Panetta. “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.”
- In a July 17, 2011, e-mail, CIA spokesperson Marie Harf advises then CIA Director of Public Affairs Greg Little that Boal and Bigelow would be “meeting individually with both [name redacted] and the translator who was on the raid…”
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 [sic] 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 post-mortem images of bin Laden and the alleged burial at sea. The Obama administration continues to withhold these records citing national security concerns.
“These new documents provide more backing to the serious charge that the Obama administration played fast and loose with national security information to help Hollywood filmmakers,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “No wonder we’ve had to fight one year of stonewalling from the administration. These new documents show there is no doubt that Obama White House was intensely interested in this film that was set to portray President Obama as ‘gutsy.’”
Read about the search for bin Laden documents and more in Tom Fitton’s New York Times best-seller The Corruption Chronicles, on sale now.