Is Panetta Covering Up Bin Laden Movie Leaks?

Is Panetta Covering Up Bin Laden Movie Leaks?

Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense, has testified before Congress that the Obama Administration did not reveal classified information to the makers of the upcoming movie detailing the killing of Osama Bin Laden. In his testimony he said no unauthorized disclosures were provided to filmmakers:

As a former director of the CIA, I deplore the unauthorized disclosures of classified information. I think this is something that does have to be fully investigated and that it has to be very clear that this is intolerable. If we’re going to try to protect the defense of this country, we’ve got to be able to protect those who are involved in clandestine operations.  Having said that, I also want to make clear that no unauthorized disclosures were provided to movie producers or anybody else. I can assure you … nobody released any information that was unauthorized.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) requested that the Pentagon Inspector General’s office investigate whether officials gave out classified information, including leaking the name of a Seal commander involved in the raid. But a Pentagon official said that the commander never met the filmmakers.

Panetta’s response came after Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) questioned him during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing on defense spending and national security.

Speaking of the issue in May on ABC’s “This Week,” Panetta said, “Nothing  inappropriate was shared with them.” Of course, Panetta is working for Barack Obama, who certainly plans to use the movie to bolster his image, so it’s a safe bet to assume someone in the Administration is lying here. To get the unvarnished truth, we turn to Judicial Watch, which was the gutsy organization that filed suit to gain access to the documents detailing exactly what the Administration did do.

On July 13, 2011, internal CIA email indicates that Bigelow and Boal were granted access to “the Vault,” which is described as the CIA building where some of the tactical planning for the bin Laden raid took place: 

“I was given your name as the POC in [redacted] who could determine the feasibility of having a potential walk-through of … the Vault in the [redacted] building that was used for some of the tactical planning in the Bin Laden Raid [sic]. In consultation with the Office of Public Affairs and as part of the larger chronicling of the Bin Laden raid, OPA will be hosting some visitors sanctioned by ODCIA this Friday afternoon” (the name of the sender is blacked out). “Of course this is doable,” an official responds.

The same day, Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers told Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Douglas Wilson and two other DOD communications staffers in an that “[DOD] would like to shape the story to prevent any gross inaccuracies, but do not want to make it look like the commanders think it’s okay to talk to the media.” The email went on to say: “For the intelligence case, they are basically using the WH-approved talking points we used the night of the operation.” The talking points called the raid “a ‘Gutsy Decision’ by the POTUS,” adding that “WH involvement was critical.”

Hmm, using White House talking points for guidance. Are we shocked?

DOD Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Douglas Wilson acted immediately; the same day he told colleagues in an 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 Department of Defense communications staffers, saying, “Ok to set up the second session with Vickers. I am getting additional guidance from WH.”

Of course he was getting guidance from the White House; does anyone believe this wasn’t orchestrated by them?

The next day, on July 14, 2011, there was a meeting between DOD officials including Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers, Kathryn Bigelow — the film’s director who won an Oscar for “The Hurt Locker” — and writer Mark Boal. The document relates that Boal met directly with White House officials on at least two occasions regarding the film: “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.” Vickers asks if the meeting was a follow-up, to which Boal responds, “Yes correct; this was a follow-up.”  Brennan is John O. Brennan, Chief Counterterrorism Advisor to President Obama and McDonough is Denis McDonough, who serves as President Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser.

In addition, transcripts from that same meeting reveal that the DOD provided the filmmakers with the identity of a “planner, SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander” (the name is blacked out in the document).  In proposing the arrangement, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers said: “The only thing we ask is that you not reveal his name in any way as a consultant because … he shouldn’t be talking out of school.” Vickers went on to say during the meeting at the Pentagon: “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.” Boal later responds, “You delivered.”

Judicial Watch also reported an email to Bob Mehal, Public Affairs Officer for Defense Press Operations, that indicated that Sarah Zukowski, an associate for The Glover Park Group, arranged the July 14, 2011 visit by Bigelow and Boal to the DOD and the CIA. Politico describes The Glover Park Group as a “Democratic-leaning advocacy firm.” 

And here’s the kicker: more than two weeks before this flurry of activity, on June 27, 2011, there was an email to an official at the Office of the Secretary of Defense that suggested that the request from Bigelow and Boal to meet with Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael 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 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.

As Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton cogently stated:

These documents, which took nine months and a federal lawsuit to disgorge from the Obama administration, show that politically-connected film makers were giving 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.

Does anyone believe Panetta’s protestations of innocence?