By Jim Kouri
While many Americans were following the congressional hearings and news reports regarding the Benghazi massacre’s aftermath including the sex-scandal sidebar involving former CIA director and retired four-star general David Petraeus, an Inside-the-Beltway watchdog group released a report on Thursday that may be just as damaging as Benghazigate to the illusion of a transparent White House.
Members of President Barack Obama’s administration revealed in sworn court documents that the sensitive information released to the filmmakers by the White House for the upcoming film on the Navy SEALs’ bin Laden raid, “Zero Dark Thirty,” could cause an “unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk” if released to the public, according to a report on Thursday by a public-interest group that investigates and exposes cases of government corruption.
As has become common practice among the major news organizations there is little interest in covering this story since it shows the President’s total disregard for proper protocol for protecting classified information, say media critics.
For example, Fox News political analyst Pat Caddell, a former Democrat Party operative, said the press has “been in the tank on this in a way I’ve never seen… I am appalled right now. This White House, this President, this Vice President, this Secretary of State, all of them, are willing apparently to dishonor themselves and this country for the cheap prospect of getting reelected…willing to cover up and lie. The worst thing is the very people who are supposed to protect the American people with the truth – the leading mainstream media…they have become a threat, a fundamental threat to American democracy and the enemies of the American people… these people have no honor… coverup is too nice of a word…”
The admissions by Obama’s minions with regard to the Obama-Bigalow case were made during the course of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a non-partisan watchdog group.
Judicial Watch officials are urging the court to order the release of all records pertaining to the cooperation between the Obama administration and movie director Kathryn Bigelow and her screenwriter Mark Boal in preparation for the film, titled, “Zero Dark Thirty.”
This unique cooperation raised 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.”
Judicial Watch argued in a counter-motion for summary judgment filed with the court on Nov. 12, 2012:
“The government cannot have it both ways in this case 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,” states the Judicial Watch report.
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 screenwriter 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.”
“The Obama administration now confirms to a federal court that it released sensitive information to help with a film that was set to portray Barack Obama as ‘gutsy.’ If this is true, then the Obama administration was lying to the American people when it said the leaks were no big deal,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
“The public has a right to get to the bottom of this scandal and the Obama administration should comply with the open records law and disclose the names that were leaked,” he added.
Judicial Watch initially launched its investigation of the filmmakers’ meetings with the Obama administration following press reports, including those by the Law Enforcement Examiner, suggesting that the Obama administration may have leaked classified information to the director as source material for Bigelow’s film.
In August 2011, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that the information leak was originally designed to help the Obama 2012 presidential reelection campaign: “The White House is also counting on the Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal big-screen version of the killing of Bin Laden to counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual. The Sony film by the Oscar-winning pair who made ‘The Hurt Locker’ will no doubt reflect the president’s cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds.”