CIA documentation confirms that former CIA director Leon Panetta revealed classified information at a 2011 awards ceremony attended by “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Mark Boal to curry favor with Hollywood, according to the Washington-based government watchdog Judicial Watch.
The organization said more than 200 pages of documentation obtained from the CIA show the entire transcript of the Panetta speech is classified “Top Secret.”
“More than 90 lines are redacted for security reasons, further confirming that significant portions of the speech should not have been made in front of a filmmaker who lacked top security clearance,” Judicial Watch said.
The documents were obtained under a June 21, 2013, Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA over Panetta’s June 24, 2011, speech.
Judicial Watch said the documents show “conclusively” that Panetta “breached national security in order to curry favor with Hollywood filmmakers who the Obama administration hoped would make a pro-Obama film.”
“The sensitivities about classifie[d] leaks from this administration don’t seem to extend to top level officials like Mr. Panetta,” Judicial Watch said.
“This new information suggests that [a] criminal probe of this dangerous leak is appropriate. At the conclusion of his speech, Panetta told the audience at the ceremony, ‘You have made me proud of the CIA family. And you have made me proud as an Italian to know that bin Laden sleeps with the fishes.’”
According to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report released several months ago, “Panetta specifically recognized the unit that conducted the raid and identified the ground commander by name.”
The ceremony prompted Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., to say: “CIA was very sloppy and the administration was very sloppy in enforcing security procedures when it came to Hollywood. It almost seems as if they were star-struck.”
The final IG report, however, dropped the issue, omitting any reference to Panetta’s disclosure of top secret details.
But the CIA Office of Security, in an internal document called the “Review of UBL Awards Ceremony Attendance,” said the agency’s security policy and administrative procedures “were not followed in allowing Mr. Boal, a member of the media, access to the classified Bin Ladin Operation Award Ceremony.”
The assessment found: “The review conducted by OS leads to the conclusion that the failure to follow stipulations in ARs [redacted] resulted in the disclosure of classified information to a member of the media, without benefit of any documentation to reflect a waiver to the above policies.”
The Judicial Watch request to the CIA was for any and all guest lists and other records about who attended the ceremony, as well as communications between officials in the CIA regarding Boal’s attendance.
The CIA admitted there were 73 records that addressed the concerns, with two released in full, 47 partly released and 13 withheld. Another 11 also were partly released.
Judicial Watch said other highlights of the released material included a letter from the director of operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Department of Defense Inspector General stating: “It is my determination, as the Original Classification Authority, that both of these transcripts [from the ceremony] contain SECRET / [REDACTED] information. The information in each transcript was classified at the time each incident occurred.”
Judicial Watch also found there were two classification reviews, because the original copy of Panetta’s speech wasn’t accurate or complete.
And the organization reported there was a CIA review reference suggesting that former CIA Chief of Staff (then DOD Chief of Staff) Jeremy Bash was the person who directed the CIA’s office of public affairs to allow Boal to attend the ceremony.
Judicial Watch had reported in August 2012 that there were meetings and communications between government agencies and Boal, along with director Kathryn Bigelow, about the military events that were the focus of the movie.
Judicial Watch said that according to a June 15, 2011, email from Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, the Obama White House was intent on “trying to have visibility into the UBL (Usama bin Laden) projects and this is likely a high profile one.”