Judicial Watch announced today that Obama administration officials disclosed in sworn court documents that sensitive information released to the filmmakers for the upcoming film on the bin Laden raid, Zero Dark Thirty, could cause an “unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk” if released to the public. The admissions, made during the course of Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking records pertaining to cooperation between Obama administration officials and director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal in preparation for the film, raises questions about the public statement to reporters by Obama White House spokesman Jay Carney regarding the controversy: “We do not discuss classified information.” The government claims that the information shared is not necessarily classified “in isolation.”
“The government cannot have it both ways in this case,” Judicial Watch argued in a countermotion for summary judgment filed with the court on November 12, 2012. “If this information were very sensitive, it would not have been shared with the filmmakers. Since the government did share the information with the filmmakers, the court should conclude that it is necessarily not sensitive … Assisting to make a movie about government accomplishments is not a necessary or important governmental function. If it were, the term for it would be political propaganda.”
JW previously obtained records from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the CIA regarding meetings and communications between government agencies and Kathryn Bigelow, the Academy Award-winning director of The Hurt Locker, and screenwriter Mark Boal in preparation for Zero Dark Thirty. According to the records, the Obama administration sought to have “high visibility” into bin Laden related projects, and granted Boal and Bigelow unusual access to agency information in preparation for their film, now scheduled for release in mid-December. The disclosures made to the filmmakers are now part of an investigation by the DOD Inspector General.
The DOD and the CIA have continued to withhold information concerning the names of five CIA and military operatives involved in the bin Laden operation, which were shared with the filmmakers. Judicial Watch has identified the precise emails containing the information it wishes to obtain, and in sworn declarations Obama administration officials conceded that this information was provided to Bigelow and Boal.
Mark Herrington, Associate Deputy General Counsel, testified that the military officers’ “identities would be threatened” if publicly disclosed but admitted that Under Secretary of Defense Mike Vickers released one of the names to Mark Boal.
According to sworn testimony from CIA Information Review Officer Martha Lutz, releasing of this type of information could provide an “unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk”:
Nonetheless, I can represent to the Court that the absolute protection for officers’ identities that Congress provided in the CIA Act is extremely important to the functioning of the Agency and the safety and security of its employees. This is true even for the identities of officers who are not undercover, and it is also true with respect to the first names of undercover officers. While such identifying information may not be classified in isolation, the widespread public release of this information creates an unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk for the Agency and its officers. READ MORE