Filmmaker would have access to Osama Bin laden's secret tapes : US

The Obama administration promised a Hollywood filmmaker unprecedented access to the top-secret Navy unit that killed Osama bin Laden to help her make a feature film on the operation at the same time it was publicly ordering officials to stop talking about the raid.

The Pentagon’s top intelligence official, Michael Vickers, offered Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow interviews with a member of the SEAL team that helped plan last year’s assault on bin Laden’s compound, according to a transcript of a July 15 meeting that was released yesterday by Judicial Watch, a Washington-based legal organization.

The summary was among hundreds of pages of material on the Obama administration’s cooperation with Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal on their proposed movie that Judicial Watch obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents illustrate a conflict between the administration’s public calls for shielding classified information related to bin Laden’s death and its private effort to assist the filmmakers.

During the meeting with Bigelow, who directed the Academy Award-winning Iraq War movie “The Hurt Locker,” Vickers also divulged the name of the normally secret Navy commando unit known as SEAL Team Six.

“Well, the basic idea is they’ll make a guy available who was involved from the beginning as planner, a SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander,” said Vickers, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, according to the transcript.
‘Point of Contact’

Lieutenant Colonel James Gregory, a Vickers spokesman, said in an e-mail last night that Vickers was not referring to a SEAL Team Six member.

“The identity of a planner, not a member of SEAL Team 6, was provided by the U.S. Special Operations Command as a possible point of contact for additional information if the DoD determined that additional support was merited,” Gregory said. “No additional official DoD support was granted, nor to our knowledge was it pursued by the film makers,” he said. “This was a meeting to explore possibilities about supporting the film endeavor.”

Judicial Watch sued the Defense Department in January for release of the records and received the material on May 18, the group said in a news release yesterday. The organization is also pressing for the publication of post-mortem photos of bin Laden and video, which the U.S. government has refused to release citing national security concerns.
‘Talking Too Much’

The July meeting between Vickers, Bigelow and Boal, which was sanctioned by the White House, came two months after then- Defense Secretary Robert Gates and then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen urged military officials to stop talking about the raid on May 2, 2011.

“My concern is that there were too many people in too many places talking too much about this operation,” Gates said at a at a May 18 news conference. “And we had reached an agreement that we would not talk about operational details. That lasted about 15 hours,” he said.

At the July 15 meeting, Boal told Vickers he had already met that day with CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell and earlier with White House Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, according to the transcript.
‘Simply False’

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama’s National Security Council, declined to comment on the documents and referred to the response given by White House press secretary Jay Carney on Aug. 10, when Republican Representative Peter King of New York called for an investigation into whether the filmmaker was given access to classified information.

“We do not discuss classified information,” Carney said at the time. “The most specific information we’ve given from this White House about the actual raid I read to you from this podium. So it’s simply false” that any special access was granted.

King’s request was prompted by an Aug. 7 New York Times column by Maureen Dowd that said: “The moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history.”

The Pentagon routinely provides technical assistance and location access to filmmakers, including the science-fiction movie “Battleship” that was released last week. In exchange for such access, equipment and personnel, filmmakers must modify a script if requested by the Pentagon or military service.
‘Gutsy Decision’

A summary of a June meeting between Vickers and Boal, the writer and producer of “The Hurt Locker,” offers a glimpse of the Obama administration’s possible motives for assisting the filmmakers -- aside from preventing inaccuracies and disclosures of classified information.

Vickers said that based on the intelligence, there was a “60 to 80 percent certainty” that bin Laden was in the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and that ordering the raid “was a ‘gutsy decision by the POTUS,’” shorthand for President of the United States, according to the summary. Vickers also “recommended” that the filmmakers look at the raid from the Central Intelligence Agency, Pentagon and White House vantage points.

“White House involvement was critical,” according to the summary of Vickers’ discussion.

Bigelow is out of the country filming and can’t be reached for comment, her publicist Susan Ciccone said yesterday.
SEAL Team Six

Pentagon and special operations officials have never publicly acknowledged the official designation of the Navy unit known informally as SEAL Team Six and formally as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or Devgru, based in Dam Neck, Virginia.

When 17 members of the unit were killed last Aug. 6 in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter crash, the fact that they were members of that unit was not disclosed though their names were released.

Vickers had no such reticence when meeting with the filmmakers, though.

“He can probably give you everything you would want or get” from the top U.S. Special Operations Command Commander or direct raid commander, Vickers said, referring respectively to then-Admiral Eric Olson and Admiral William McRaven.

According to the documents, McRaven, then head of the Joint Special Operations Command, and Olson would not speak with the filmmakers because military officials were concerned “that it’s just a bad example if it gets out -- even with all sorts of restrictions and everything.”
‘That’s Dynamite’

The SEAL Team Six planner whose name was blacked out in the transcript will “speak for operators and he’ll speak for senior military commanders” because they are all “the same tribe and everything,” Vickers said during the July meeting.

The commanders tell their troops never to talk about operations, and doing so now would jeopardize their leadership, Vickers told the filmmakers, according to the documents.

Still, filmmakers were ecstatic. “That’s dynamite by the way,” Boal told Vickers, according to the transcript. “That’s incredible,” Bigelow said.

Officials at the CIA also went to unusual lengths to cooperate with Bigelow and Boal. In a June 30 e-mail to a recipient whose name was redacted, then-CIA spokesman Marie Harf, who now works for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Chicago, said:

“As a Agency, we’ve been pretty forward-leaning with Boal, and he’s agreed to share scripts and details about the movie with us so we’re absolutely comfortable with what he will be showing.”
‘A Bit Quiet’

“I know this is a little outside what we typically do as CIA officers,” she continued later, “but Boal seems committed to representing the Agency well in what is a multi-million dollar major motion picture.

‘‘(... we’re trying to keep his visits at HQs a bit quiet, because of the sensitivities surrounding who gets to participate in this types of things. I’m sure you understand ...)”

Preston Golson, a CIA spokesman, said in an e-mail yesterday that “on some occasions, when appropriate, we arrange visits to the Agency for unclassified meetings with some of our officers.”

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