Barack Obama accused of risking national security over Osama bin Laden film
PRESIDENT Barack Obama has been accused of risking America's national security for political gain by giving Hollywood filmmakers access to secret material on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Documents released under freedom of information laws show that Mr Obama's defence department and CIA enthusiastically assisted Kathryn Bigelow, the Oscar-winning director, for her forthcoming film on the raid.
Mr Obama's administration even made available "a planner, operator and commander of SEAL Team Six", the elite Navy squad that killed bin Laden in May last year. The identities of Navy SEALS are a closely-kept secret.
The filmmakers were taken to a classified facility, whose name had to be redacted in the released documents, and were allowed to tour the CIA vaults, containing vast amounts of secret information. They were also shown the CIA's mock-up of bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
At the time, Ms Bigelow's film, titled Zero Dark Thirty, was due to be released in October, later prompting accusations that it was timed to boost Mr Obama's prospects for re-election the following month.
Congressman Peter King of New York, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on Wednesday that the emails told a "damning story of extremely close, unprecedented, and potentially dangerous collaboration" between top Obama officials, the filmmakers and a Left-wing lobbying firm.
"If this facility is so secret that the name cannot even be seen by the public, then why in the world would the Obama Administration allow filmmakers to tour it?" Mr King asked.
Amid Republican calls for an inquiry, Mr King wrote to senior officials at the Pentagon and CIA demanding further details on what was disclosed to Ms Bigelow and her screenwriter, Mark Boal.
In a meeting last July, Michael Vickers, under secretary of defence for intelligence, promised to "make a guy available who was involved from the beginning", who would "give you everything you would want", transcripts show. "That's dynamite," replied Mr Boal. Ms Bigelow, who won the 2009 Oscar for Best Director for The Hurt Locker, added: "That's incredible".
Mr Vickers said: "The only thing we ask is that you not reveal his name in any way he shouldn't be talking out of school." The Pentagon now claims that the man, whose name was redacted in the released documents, was not involved directly in the raid.
The meeting was held just weeks after Robert Gates, then Mr Vickers's boss as defence secretary, said he was "very concerned" that leaks from the bin Laden raid could jeopardise future operations. Mr Obama's administration has aggressively targeted the sources of government leaks throughout its first term.
In an email, Mr Boal also discussed meeting John Brennan, Mr Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser, and Denis McDonough, the President's deputy national security adviser.
The Republicans said the emails and transcripts – which amount to hundreds of pages – suggested that classified material may have been given to people without necessary security clearances.
"A release of classified documents for clearly political ends would call into question the Obama administration's judgment," said Kirsten Kukowski, a party spokesman. "Putting politics before our national security is certainly cause for concern and it should be investigated immediately." Republicans also voiced concerns that the documents showed some of the contact between officials and the film's producers had been brokered by Glover Park Group, a Left-leaning lobbying firm whose senior staff include former Clinton administration officials.
Critics of Mr Obama from the Left also said it was astonishing that an administration that had prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous governments combined had been caught happily leaking to Hollywood allies.
The White House referred to a statement by the President's press secretary last year that it was "ridiculous" and "simply false" to suggest that classified information had been leaked for the film, which is now due to be released in December, after the presidential election.