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Judicial Watch Obtains Records: Hollywood and Seal Team Six

Written by Tom Fitton

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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.

How much of a media firestorm?  Google counts more than 700 media hits including BloombergThe Los Angeles Times,CBS News, MSNBC, and even entertainment trades like Entertainment Weekly.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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