Newly revealed documents show the CIA's public information office, dealing with filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, were aware of the Osama bin Laden movie's high profile and pedigree -- and employees in the office even joked about asking for tickets to the film's premiere.
No one has yet suggested that the documents, obtained by conservative government watchdog Judicial Watch, show that the government gave any classified material to the filmmakers. Mostly, they confirm the CIA's enthusiasm for the project and the extent of the access provided to Bigelow and Boal in making Zero Dark Thirty.
The stack of documents was discovered belatedly by the CIA after Judicial Watch made a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The watchdog fought with the government about how quickly such e-mails needed to be turned over.
The CIA public affairs office responded to Bigelow's picture with a bit of fandom, such as joking with Boal about tickets for the movie premiere.
According to the files, the CIA's public affairs office knew more than one movie would be made about the bin Laden killing, and while one spokesperson said it wasn't customary practice to "pick favorites," there was some sense in getting behind the "winning horse," which in their eyes meant the movie with "the most money behind it, and two Oscar winners on board."
Another person at the office responded about doing due diligence with the other films, also noting that "it doesn't hurt to establish stronger relationships with CAA and others even if their projects don't move forward."
Some of the cooperation that the filmmakers garnered seems minimal; for example, the agency allowed Boal's floor plan of the bin Laden compound to be verified for accuracy, providing details such as the height of walls on the third floor.
Other documents show the kind of access the filmmakers got, and suggest what information might have been obtained. For instance, Boal and Bigelow met the translator on the raid. They also spoke with CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell.
Details of those conversations, however, remain secret -- so that won't stop those who suspect the Obama administration of rule-breaking. The individual who comes out worst in these newly revealed documents might not be anyone in government, but rather the New York Times reporter who gave the CIA an advance peak at a Maureen Dowd column that jabbed the Obama administration for having "outsourced the job of manning up the president's image to Hollywood."
Judicial Watch says it is pleased with the results of its investigation.
“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.’”
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @eriqgardner
- Kathryn Bigelow
- Judicial Watch
- Mark Boal