Weekly Update: JW Roils Washington
JW Obtains Obama Administration Records Detailing Meetings with bin Laden Movie Filmmakers
On Tuesday, Judicial Watch caused a firestorm when we released records from the Obama 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 her screenwriter Mark Boal.
Why so much attention?
According to the records, the Obama Defense Department granted the Hollywood filmmakers unprecedented access to a “planner, Operator and Commander of SEAL Team Six,” who was responsible for the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, to assist Bigelow prepare her upcoming feature film.
To limit the damage, the Obama administration released them to Judicial Watch late on Friday, May 18. (Obviously this strategy did not work.) Here are a few of the highlights:
- 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 DOD provided the filmmakers with the identity of a “planner, Operator and Commander of SEAL Team Six.” (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.
As I mentioned, Judicial Watch’s discovery exploded in the press. And when that happens, attention from Congress is a foregone conclusion.
As Congressional Quarterly put it, “Try as both candidates really might, this presidential election will never be exclusively about economic growth and job creation. Not so long as outside groups retain their ever-more-outsized role in framing the debate. And one of the masters of the form, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, is out with another shape-shifter — which Republicans pounced on today as buttressing their passionately held view that Obama is more suited to being celebrity in chief than commander in chief.”
One such Republican, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Chairman took the lead in responding to the Judicial Watch disclosures:
“Filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal may have set out to tell a blockbuster, election-year story about one of the most highly classified operations in American history, but through these emails they’ve ended up telling a damning story of extremely close, unprecedented, and potentially dangerous collaboration with top officials at the CIA, DoD, and the White House and a top Democratic lobbying firm.”
“After reviewing these emails, I am even more concerned about the possible exposure of classified information to these filmmakers, who as far as I know, do not possess security clearances. The email messages indicate that the filmmakers were allowed an unprecedented visit to a classified facility so secret that its name is redacted in the released email. If this facility is so secret that the name cannot even be seen by the public, then why in the world would the Obama Administration allow filmmakers to tour it? The emails also tell of these filmmakers being allowed to tour the CIA’s vaults, which is absolutely shocking to those of us who know the sensitive nature of materials kept there.
“Also troubling is the fact that the Democratic lobbying firm Glover Park Group was so intimately involved in brokering these filmmakers’ access to clandestine officers and potentially special operators only weeks after the mission and when details were otherwise still very closely guarded, and one of Glover Park’s primary contacts within the Administration, CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf, left shortly thereafter to join President Obama’s reelection campaign in Chicago.
“This is a very serious issue. We simply cannot forget what then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates said a week after the raid: ‘Frankly, a week ago Sunday, in the Situation Room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden. That all fell apart on Monday, the next day.’”
King sent letters to the agencies demanding more information about the “potentially dangerous collaboration.”
Judicial Watch launched its investigation of Bigelow’s meetings with the Obama administration following press reports suggesting 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…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 filmmakers were given extraordinary and secret access to bin Laden raid information, including the identity of a Seal Team Six leader.
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.
By the way, Ms. Bigelow gave a small donation to the Obama campaign in November, 2011 and previously supported Democratic causes. I have the details on my twitter feed here.
Our work forced reactions, mostly disingenuous, from the Obama White House, CIA and Pentagon. But even liberals weren’t buying the White House line. Liberal commentator Sam Stein said on MSNBC, “If Bush had done this with 9/11 and brought in a Hollywood producer, conservative filmmaker and say, ‘I want to talk to you about where I was the morning of and how great and grand we were’ — I just think there would have been a popular outcry. And I think if you’re going to be consistent you have to apply those standards to Obama as well.”
Judicial Watch is consistent. And persistent. The CIA continues to withhold information about the film meetings and our lawyers are considering next steps to obtain the additional information.
Please join me in giving kudos to our staff who investigated, litigated and successfully exposed this major government accountability story. You and other Judicial Watch supporters can see the tremendous impact of your financial and other support.
Major Media Outlets Join JW’s Lawsuit to Obtain Obama White House Visitor Logs
The Obama administration has always faced an uphill climb in its legal campaign to shield White House visitor logs from public view. (The law is not on their side.) But it just got a whole lot steeper.
This week major mainstream media outlets and open government organizations joined our legal campaign against the Obama Secret Service to force the release of White House visitor logs.
As you may recall, on August 17, Obama-appointed federal Judge Beryl Howell, ruled against the Obama administration and found that Secret Service White House visitor logs are agency records that are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Obama administration appealed that decision and the lawsuit is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Check out this list of organizations joining amicus briefs in the Judicial Watch’s litigation: Bloomberg, L.P., CBS Broadcast, Inc., Dow Jones & Company, Inc., Gannett, Co., Inc., The McClatchy Company, The National Association of Broadcasters, National Freedom of Information Coalition, National Public Radio, The Newspaper Guild, The Radio Television Digital News Association, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, The Washington Post, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Openthegovernment.org, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Project on Government Oversight.
Certainly there is no way the Obama gang can chalk up JW’s lawsuit to yet another “vast right wing conspiracy.” Especially when you read the unambiguous language from these briefs in support of Judicial Watch.
For example, according to the May 8, 2012 amicus curiae brief filed by Bloomberg, et. al., the Obama administration is attempting to “evade the congressional mandate of FOIA:”
The Media Amici are particularly concerned that reversal of the decision below may encourage federal agencies to seek to place millions of documents outside of FOIA’s ambit based on no more than their say-so, even in the face of express statutes and judicial orders directly to the contrary. Permitting such an end-run around FOIA would significantly reduce the quantity and quality of information available to the media and, consequently, to the public at large, severely undermining the goal of an informed public that sits at the core of our democracy…
…Media Amici respectfully urge this Court to affirm the District Court’s ruling…and reject the Secret Service’s repeated efforts to evade the congressional mandate of FOIA. Any other decision risks inviting a degradation of the rights of the media and the public to access government information, ultimately reducing confidence in governmental institutions.
The Media Amici group also asserts that the Obama administration’s position “would effect a complete end-run around FOIA.”
According to the May 8, 2012, amicus curiae brief filed by CREW, et. al., the Obama administration’s position on the White House visitor logs is “radical” and will render FOIA a “dead letter.”
Pursuant to a lawsuit filed on December 7, 2009, Judicial Watch has asked the court to order the release of Secret Service logs of White House visitors from January 20, 2009, to August, 10, 2009.
The Obama administration has made the erroneous claim that the visitor logs “are not agency records subject to the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act].” As Judicial Watch noted in its complaint filed on December 7, 2009, this claim “has been litigated and rejected repeatedly.” Despite White House misinformation to the contrary, tens of thousands of visitor logs are being withheld from disclosure by the Obama administration.
According to Judge Howell’s ruling, the records should now be subject to disclosure under FOIA: “…the proper course of action by the Secret Service is duly to process [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request, disclose all segregable, nonexempt records, and then assert specific FOIA exemptions for all records it seeks to withhold.” Currently, the White House releases visitor information at its own discretion, the timing and specifics of which, it insisted, was not subject to court review.
We are grateful so many reputable media institutions and open government organizations are joining our legal campaign against the Obama administration to uphold our nation’s FOIA transparency law and force the release of White House visitor logs. The Obama administration has a sham policy of voluntarily releasing selected White House visitor logs, while shielding hundreds of thousands remaining logs from public view. President Obama has made a mockery of his transparency promises to the American people. And no one, not even presumed “friendlies” in the press are on his side.
JW’s Election Integrity Campaign Moves Forward as Voter Fraud Problem Mushrooms Nationwide
Don’t believe the line from leftist activists and the Obama campaign that the voter fraud problem is just the result of an overactive imagination on the part of Republicans. All you have to do is read the headlines.
For example, there was this news story by J. Christian Adams, who is working with us on our 2012 Election Integrity Project, published by BigGovernment.com:
53,000 Dead Registered Voters in Florida, Millions Nationwide
The Florida Secretary of State has discovered 53,000 dead voters registered to vote. The Secretary of State has also flagged thousands of potential non-citizens who are also registered to vote. This discovery is indicative of a wider national problem with dead and ineligible voters on the rolls heading into the Presidential election.
And this courtesy of a reporter from the Richmond Times Dispatch:
State Police Find Evidence of Voter Fraud in Virginia
Results of an ongoing Virginia State Police investigation of voter registration irregularities from the 2008 general election may signal a more significant voter fraud issue than some state lawmakers realized.
As Virginia legislators hotly debated a voter ID bill that narrowly passed the General Assembly, many were unaware of a state police investigation that, so far, has resulted in charges against 38 people statewide for voter fraud. Warrants have been obtained for a 39th person who can’t be located.
A majority of those cases already have resulted in convictions, and 26 additional cases are still being actively investigated nearly 3-and-a-half years after the state Board of Elections forwarded more than 400 voter and election fraud allegations from 62 cities and counties to Virginia State Police for individual investigation.
(Importantly, investigators believe fraud may have actually occurred at polling places on Election Day 2008 in this critical battleground state.)
Then there was this from FoxNews.com:
Voter Fraud Allegations in Mayoral Election Rock New Mexico City
There is perhaps no other city in the country like Sunland Park, N.M. The dusty border town minutes from El Paso, Texas, has been called “a city in chaos” by the state auditor, because a slew of public officials are facing felony charges that they ran City Hall like a personal piggy bank, tried to steal an election in order to remain in power and ruled the 14,000 residents through intimidation and fear.
The explosive case even involves Mexican prostitutes, strippers and an undercover video of a mayoral candidate getting a lap dance from a topless woman. The video allegedly was used to try to force him to drop out of the race. Authorities say the extortion investigation has revealed widespread voter fraud and public corruption in the small city just south of the Rio Grande.
These, of course, are just a few of many examples of rampant voter registration fraud just months before the nation will go to the polls. If you’ve been reading this space for some time, you know that Judicial Watch does not support or endorse candidates. We just want to make sure the 2012 elections are free, fair, and clean.
And that’s why we started our 2012 Election Integrity Project. Of course, one of the key components of this campaign is to clean up dirty registration rolls.
Judicial Watch’s team analyzed voter registration data to determine which states have the dirtiest voter registration lists. According to this investigation, the worst offenders are Mississippi, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Florida, Alabama, California, and Colorado.
Judicial Watch has put election officials on notice in these states that if they fail to clean up voter rolls in accordance with the law, Judicial Watch lawyers are preparing to file lawsuits to force them to do it.
There is no question that lawsuits are going to be necessary. But it is also true that sometimes the threat of a lawsuit can get action.
Take West Virginia as an example.
As noted by the West Virginia Lincoln Journal: “The Lincoln County Commission…took steps in response to the threat of a lawsuit from the Washington D.C.-based organization Judicial Watch, regarding voter rolls in Lincoln County. Meeting last Thursday, March 15, 2012, the commissioners adopted a resolution supporting the county clerk’s efforts to resolve the situation.”
I believe the Obama machine is prepared to steal, if necessary, the elections this November. As evidence from the news reports from across the country, this is a fight that will have to be fought county by county and state by state.
In the meantime, I wish you the best for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday. We should remember to strive every day to make sure that our nation’s public life honors the ultimate sacrifice of those heroes we honor next week. I leave you with a link to a wonderful photo, courtesy of the Library of Congress, of a 1920 ceremony honoring our war dead at Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial in France.
Until next week…