Classified details provided to filmmakers working on a documentary project portraying Barack Obama as decisive and gutsy are too dangerous to release to the general public as that would pose a risk to CIA agents, according to the White House.
Judicial Watch is fighting the Obama administration for access to what information already was given to the makers of a coming film on the Osama bin Laden raid in Pakistan.
The project is called “Zero Dark Thirty,” and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that the information leak was originally designed to help the Obama 2012 presidential reelection campaign, explaining, “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.”
Judicial Watch said today that now Obama administration officials have argued in court documents that the sensitive information could create an “unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk” if released generally.
They argue that they protected those same CIA operatives when giving their information to filmmakers by asking them not to share the names, a point Judicial Watch said was questionable since there was no evidence the filmmakers were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement “or any other contract that would prevent them from sharing the names as required under law.”
Further, Judicial Watch noted, there was no evidence the filmmakers had background checks or received security clearances before the Obama administration gave them the information that the Department of Defense and CIA now allege is too sensitive for public disclosure.
“The government cannot have it both ways in this case,” Judicial Watch said in seeking a summary judgment on its request for the details.
“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,” the organization said.
The corruption-fighting organization today said that the White House doesn’t want to release the information under Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over the cooperation between Obama and director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal in their movie project.
It also raises concerns about a statement to reporters by Obama White House spokesman Jay Carney that, “We do not discuss classified information.”
Previous records obtained by Judicial Watch revealed the Obama administration “sought to have ‘high visibility’ into bin Laden related projects, and granted Boal and Bigelow unusual access to agency information.”
But the White House continues to withheld information regarding the names of five CIA and military operatives involved in the bin Laden operation, even though they earlier were given to the filmmakers.
Judicial Watch said it identified the exact emails containing the information and Obama administration officials confirmed that information was given to the filmmakers.
In fact, Associate Deputy General Counsel Mark Herrington “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.”
But CIA Information Review Officer Martha Lutz testified of the related dangers.
“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.”