King Statement on CIA/DoD Documents on Osama bin Laden Movie Collaboration
Emails tell “damning story of…unprecedented, and potentially dangerous collaboration” between top Administration officials and Democratic lobbyists
Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, issued the following statement and sent the two attached letters in response to the release of internal CIA and Department of Defense email messages related to the planned Sony Pictures movie on the mission in which U.S. Special Operations Forces killed Osama bin Laden.
The documents were released yesterday by Judicial Watch, which obtained them, via court order, through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Links to the documents are available HERE.
King said: “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.’”
Also today, King sent letters to Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers and Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell voicing his concerns about the potential release of classified information to the filmmakers. The signed letters sent to Vickers and Morell are available HERE.
In August, Chairman King requested that the Inspectors General at the DoD and the CIA investigate reports that the Obama Administration granted Sony Pictures and filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal high-level access for a film on the mission. The film was originally reported to have a planned release of October 2012, just a month before the November 2012 elections.
In December, the DoD Inspector General informed King that, following an initial review, the Inspector General for Intelligence and Special Program Assessments had launched a formal investigation into “actions taken by Defense Department personnel related to the release of information to the filmmakers.”
Previously, the CIA’s Inspector General informed King that the Agency was to develop “a written policy to create a single point of reference that will govern future interactions with the entertainment industry.”
King’s August 9 letter requesting the investigation is available HERE.
The December 2011 letter from DoD to King is available HERE.
The November 2011 letter from the CIA to King is available HERE.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, questioned about King’s request on August 10, dismissed King’s common-sense concerns, saying “I would hope that as we face a continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie.”
Today’s disclosures demonstrate just how valid Chairman King’s concerns were and how reckless Administration conduct was.
Note: The text (with footnotes omitted for formatting purposes) of King’s letters to Under Secretary Vickers and Deputy Director Morell follows:
May 23, 2012
The Honorable Michael G. Vickers
Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1400
Dear Under Secretary Vickers:
I am writing regarding the Committee on Homeland Security’s ongoing investigation into the possible release of classified information to Hollywood filmmakers regarding the raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. As you may know, this matter is currently under investigation by the Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General.
On May 22, Judicial Watch posted on-line electronic communications that were ordered released by a Federal judge in response to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding the Department of Defense’s cooperation on the bin Laden movie. Included in these documents were emails you sent and the transcript of a conversation you had with producer Mr. Mark Boal and director Ms. Kathryn Bigelow. In my view, these emails raise serious questions regarding your central role in providing classified and sensitive information to individuals without appropriate security clearances.
According to the released documents, in a July 13, 2011 email from Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Doug Wilson to Mr. Boal and Ms. Bigelow, he states “Jeremy Bash and I talked yesterday, and he and I will work to unclog the SOCOM pathway for you. Assume you are getting what you need from Mike Vickers, but in any case we’ll review where you are next week and move the ball forward.”
In a transcript of your subsequent July 15, 2011 meeting with the filmmakers, you stated that you would provide them access to a special operator who would:
“[S]peak for operators and he’ll speak for senior military commanders, because they’re all the same tribe and everything, and so you should get most of what you need from him. Now, again the reason [Admiral] Olson and [Admiral] McRaven didn’t want to talk is this command conflict of interest. And then with [redacted] the only thing we ask is that you not reveal his name in any way as a consultant, because again, it’s the same thing, he shouldn’t be talking out of school, 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 and give you lots of color.
Also in this same meeting, according to the transcript, you stated that:
“I’ve been told to do for you what [Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency] Michael [Morell] and others, so that’s what I’m going to try to do for you tonight and others. Now on the operators side; [Admiral] McRaven and [Admiral] Olson do not want to talk directly, because it’s just a bad, their [sic] just concerned as commanders of the force and they’re telling them all the time -- don’t you dare talk to anybody, that it’s just a bad example if it gets out -- even with all sorts of restrictions and everything …. Well the basic idea is they’ll make a guy available who was involved from the beginning as a planner; a [Special Mission Unit] Operator and Commander … A guy name[d] [redacted]. And so, he basically can probably give you everything you would want or would get from [Admiral] Olson or [Admiral] McRaven.”
Pursuant to Rule X, Clauses 2(a) and 3(g)(1), and Rule XI, Clause 1(b)(1) of the House of Representatives, I request answers to the following questions.
1. How many current or former Special Mission Unit operators were exposed to the filmmakers, and under what circumstances? Who specifically authorized current Special Mission Unit operators to speak about this mission to uncleared personnel outside of their chain of command?
2. What was the scope and duration of the technical support to the filmmakers provided by the Special Mission Unit operators?
3. What was the “clogged SOCOM pathway” that Assistant Secretary Wilson promises the filmmakers will be cleared?
4. Who told you “to do for” the filmmakers “what Michael Morrell and others” had done for them?
5. What specifically was your guidance in terms of support to the filmmaking endeavor that you received from your chain of command and the White House?
Following the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, multiple senior U.S. government officials expressed the importance of keeping information secret. According to public statements by former United States Special Operations Command Commander Admiral Eric Olson, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, leaks pertaining to the raid jeopardize the capabilities of Special Operations Forces to kill terrorist leaders who threaten the U.S. Homeland and risk the safety of special operators and their families. It is unfortunate that the Administration’s desire to provide Hollywood filmmakers access to such information is in direct opposition to the stated views of our senior military leadership.
I would appreciate receiving your written response to this letter by no later than May 29, 2011. Thank you for your prompt and personal attention to this serious matter of national security.
PETER T. KING
cc: Lynne M. Halbrooks, Esq.
Acting Inspector General
Department of Defense
May 23, 2012
Mr. Michael J. Morell
Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, DC 20505
Dear Deputy Director Morell:
I am writing regarding the Committee on Homeland Security’s ongoing investigation into the possible release of classified information to filmmakers regarding the raid, which killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. As you may know, this matter is currently under investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Office of the Inspector General.
On May 22, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a Federal judge ordered the release of electronic communications regarding the CIA’s cooperation on the bin Laden movie. In my view, these emails raise serious questions regarding your central role in providing classified and sensitive information to individuals without appropriate security clearances while Acting Director of Central Intelligence in 2011.
According to the documents, filmmakers Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow obtained the Agency’s permission for at least six visits to CIA facilities. These facilities included secure vaults within the Counterterrorism Center (CTC) and may have also included a sensitive, covered facility located away from CIA headquarters. During these visits, the filmmakers met with a number of CIA officials, including yourself (twice). They also met with an unknown number of National Clandestine Service (NCS) officers, including at least one who participated in the Abbottabad raid.
On at least one of these visits, the filmmakers were accompanied by Michael Feldman, a Founding Partner and Managing Director of The Glover Park Group, a leading communications and lobbying firm. Based on the documents, The Glover Park Group appears to have been retained by the filmmakers to gain unprecedented access to CIA and special operations personnel.
According to other released documents, Marie Harf from the CIA Office of Public Affairs facilitated most of these meetings. As you know, Ms. Harf has since departed the CIA to take a position at President Obama’s reelection campaign headquarters in Chicago. In several emails to CIA personnel, including National Clandestine Service officers, Ms. Harf stated:
• “[Filmmaker Mark Boal] has met with a number of your colleagues in CTC and throughout the Agency. One of those folks he’s chatted with is [redacted] who recommended you as someone else who might want to sit down with Mark … he’s spoken to a number of folks who worked on the operation from [HQS], and to your predecessor [redacted] but he’s looking for more color about what it was like to be working this from the field … Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions! It’s totally up to you whether or not you want to participate. I know this isn’t the typical CIA experience [smile emoticon] ”
• Bigelow and Boal are described as “visitors sanctioned by ODCIA,” the Office of the Director of CIA.
• “As a [sic] Agency, we’ve been pretty forward-leaning with Boal.”
• “We think it would make sense, if you’re willing to do so, if you would sit down and chat with Boal as well … I know this is a little outside what we typically do as CIA officers … we’re trying to keep his visits at [HQS] a bit quiet, because of the sensitivities surrounding who gets to participate in these types of things. I’m sure you understand …”
Pursuant to Rule X, Clauses 2(a) and 3(g)(1), and Rule XI, Clause 1(b)(1) of the House of Representatives, I request answers to the following questions no later than May 29, 2012:
1. Is it CIA practice to meet with registered lobbyists in order to facilitate access to National Clandestine Service personnel? How many meetings with registered lobbyists have been held at CIA Headquarters since January 20, 2009?
2. How many National Clandestine Service officers were made available to the filmmakers?
3. Were National Clandestine Service officers pressured to meet with the filmmakers?
4. Were National Clandestine Service officers introduced to Boal and Bigelow over the objections of the Director of the CTC, who apparently declined to meet with the filmmakers?
5. Did representatives of CIA’s Office of Security and/or Counterintelligence Center accompany the filmmakers on their visits to CIA to ensure that CIA officials did not reveal classified information to them? If not, were representatives from the Office of Public Affairs their only escort?
6. For what purpose were the filmmakers taken into CIA vaults? Were they taken to a covered facility away from CIA’s Headquarters campus? If so, why?
7. Film producer Mr. Boal stated to Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers that CIA told him about National Security Agency (NSA) and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) involvement in obtaining intelligence for the Abbottabad raid. What exactly did CIA tell Boal about NSA and NGA involvement in the bin Laden operation? What role did NSA and NGA have in providing this information?
Following the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, multiple senior U.S. government officials expressed the importance of keeping information secret. According to public statements by former U.S. Special Operations Command Commander Admiral Eric Olson, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, leaks pertaining to the raid jeopardize the capabilities of Special Operations Forces to kill terrorist leaders who threaten the U.S. Homeland and risk the safety of special operators and their families. It is unfortunate that the Administration’s desire to provide Hollywood filmmakers access to such information is directly in opposition to the stated views of our senior military leadership.
Thank you for your prompt and personal attention to this serious matter of national security.
PETER T. KING
cc: David B. Buckley
Central Intelligence Agency