Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is threatening a hold on the nomination of Obama Chief Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan to serve as CIA Director until the administration comes clean on Benghazi. Yet there is another reason that Brennan’s confirmation must not be rubber-stamped. According to documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, Brennan met with the filmmakers behind Zero Dark Thirty to discuss the Osama bin Laden raid.
The interaction of senior administration officials, including intelligence and counter-terror officials, with director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal is now the target of a pending bipartisan investigation in the U.S. Senate. The administration is suspected of feeding sensitive security details to the filmmakers. According to the McClatchy News Service, the alleged leaks have also led to a criminal referral to the Department of Justice.
As Judicial Watch uncovered, the Obama administration actively sought to have “high visibility” in bin Laden-related projects to help the president appear “gutsy” for his role in ordering the Navy SEAL raid that led to the terrorist’s capture. And they found willing partners in Bigelow and Boal, who were given unprecedented and secret access to details regarding the bin Laden raid in preparation for their film.
We went to federal court to force the “most transparent administration in history” to turn over records about the film. We have received hundreds of pages, but there is one key document that specifically references Brennan that we disclosed last May:
A transcript of a July 14, 2011,meeting between DOD [Department of Defense] 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, including Brennan: “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 Obama White House apparently coordinated the collusion between DOD and the filmmakers from the outset.
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 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 [Boal] 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.
The documents also show that the DOD was well aware of the possibility of negative blowback in the press related to these secret meetings and sought White House guidance regarding the second meeting between Vickers and the filmmakers.
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 DOD communications staffers, saying: “Ok to set up the second session with Vickers. I am getting additional guidance from WH.”
Judicial Watch’s discovery led to a Pentagon Inspector General’s investigation and the criminal referral to the Department of Justice that seems to have fallen into a black hole. Vickers is under fire for releasing the names of those who participated in the raid, but clearly Brennan was involved in this effort to help a film that the administration understood would help Obama advance his campaign theme of “Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.”
During his confirmation hearing, Brennan must be asked: Was Brennan’s pending nomination to head the CIA the reason the Justice Department is sitting on the IG’s criminal referral? How might Brennan be caught up in any criminal investigation of these leaks?
Certainly Brennan’s involvement in a scandal involving the alleged leaking of classified details should take center stage in any debate over his suitability to serve as the nation’s top spy.
Judicial Watch continues to investigate. The pliant DC media will be little help vetting this nomination, so it will be up to independent groups like Judicial Watch and the new independent media to demand accountability from Brennan. (For more background, click here to read a JW court brief seeking access to the information released to Bigelow and Boal. And click here to access the documents we have already uncovered.)
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton is author of the New York Times bestseller The Corruption Chronicles and executive producer of the documentary District of Corruption.