“The boundaries of what is and what is not classified are soft and changeable. In the abstract, this person’s identity might be sensitive but unclassified,” he continued. “It’s very hard to say categorically that such information either would not or would be classified.”
King requested the investigation in August 2011 over concerns that classified information may have been given to the makers of the bin Laden movie that might have compromised tactics used by U.S. special forces and the methods used by the CIA to gather intelligence.
Bigelow has said that “to the best of our knowledge” she and Boal didn’t receive classified information. “We never requested classified information or was I aware that classified information was coming my way,” she said in an interview with CBS earlier this month.
Among its other conclusions, the Pentagon investigators determined that White House and Pentagon officials discussed allowing the filmmakers to interview Vickers. They also found that the meeting with the special operations planner never took place, and that no secret special operations tactics and techniques were revealed to the pair.
One of the filmmakers attended a June 2011 CIA award ceremony that recognized the Navy SEALs and CIA officers involved in the raid, but no effort was made to protect the special operators’ identities, investigators found.
The investigation will create more controversy for the movie, which had its premiere Dec. 10 in Los Angeles to widespread acclaim. Human right groups and other critics are complaining that scenes of the CIA’s brutal interrogation of al Qaida detainees erroneously imply that torture provided crucial intelligence that led the agency to bin Laden’s hiding place in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
King requested the investigation in letters to the Pentagon and CIA inspectors general in which he cited a New York Times report that Bigelow and Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. were given “top-level access to the most classified mission in history.” He also noted Bigelow’s reported attendance at the CIA ceremony.
King asked the inspectors general to examine whether there had been any consultations between White House, Defense Department and CIA officials on providing the filmmakers access to SEAL team members or undercover CIA officers. He also requested that they look at whether any secret techniques or tactics of the SEALs or the CIA had been compromised and whether leaks about details of the raid to the news media had hurt the CIA’s intelligence collection methods or human sources.
The Pentagon Inspector General’s Office informed King in December 2011 that it was launching a formal investigation “into actions taken by Defense Department personnel related to the release of information to the filmmakers.” The CIA Inspector General’s Office apparently declined to investigate, telling King in a Nov. 8, 2011, letter that the agency’s Office of Public Affairs was developing a written policy “that will govern future interactions with the entertainment industry.”
In a May 23 letter, King wrote to Vickers that documents obtained by Judicial Watch in its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit “raise serious questions regarding your central role in providing classified and sensitive information to individuals without appropriate security clearances.” The documents included emails and the transcript of the conversation that Vickers had with Bigelow and Boal in which Vickers disclosed the name of the U.S. Special Operations Command planner.
In a separate letter the same day, King expressed concerns to CIA Deputy Director Michael J. Morell about his role in the case. Morell became the acting agency chief after Petraeus resigned last month, and his name is among those mentioned as a top contender to replace Petraeus.
In his letter to Morell, King said the Judicial Watch documents showed that the CIA had given Bigelow and Boal permission to visit at least six CIA facilities. They included secure vaults at the National Counterterrorism Center and possibly “a sensitive, covered facility” outside the CIA headquarters campus in Langley, Va., King wrote.
The issue provided fodder during Obama’s election battle against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with a group of politically conservative former special forces officers producing a video in which they accused the president of taking too much credit for bin Laden’s death and allowing too many leaks of secret information about the hunt.
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