A powerful House committee chairman has accused the Obama administration of jeopardising national security by providing classified information to two filmmakers producing a movie on the raid by Navy SEAL that killed Osama bin Laden.
"Filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal may have set out to tell a blockbuster, election-year story about one of the most highly classified operations in American history.
But through these emails they have ended up telling a damning story of extremely close, unprecedented and potentially dangerous collaboration with top officials at the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defence, and the White House and a top Democratic lobbying firm," said Congressman Peter King, who is chairman of the powerful committee on Homeland Security.
King, a Republican, first raised questions about the bin Laden movie last year summer but said newly released documents confirm his suspicions. He obtained the related documents from Judicial Watch which got in a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Congressman wrote letters to the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G Vickers and Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell voicing his concerns about the potential release of classified information to the filmmakers.
"After reviewing these emails, I am even more concerned about the possible exposure of classified information to these filmmakers, who as far as I know, do not possess security clearances," he said.
"The email messages indicate that the filmmakers were allowed an unprecedented visit to a classified facility so secret that its name is redacted in the released email," King said in a statement, referring to the documents released by Judicial Watch.
"If this facility is so secret that even the name cannot be seen by the public, then why in the world would the Obama administration allow filmmakers to tour it? The emails also tell of these filmmakers being allowed to tour the CIA's vaults, which is absolutely shocking to those of us who know the sensitive nature of materials kept there," King said.
He said it was more troubling that Democratic lobbying firm Glover Park Group was so intimately involved in brokering these filmmakers' access to clandestine officers and potentially special operators only weeks after the mission and when details were otherwise still very closely guarded.
"One of Glover Park's primary contacts within the Administration, CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf, left shortly thereafter to join President Obama's reelection campaign in Chicago," he said.
"This is a very serious issue. We simply cannot forget what then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates said a week after the raid: "Frankly, a week ago Sunday, in the Situation Room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden'. That all fell apart on Monday, the next day," King said.
According to the released documents, in a July 13, 2011 email from Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Doug Wilson to Boal and Bigelow, he states "Jeremy Bash and I talked yesterday, and he and I will work to unclog the SOCOM pathway for you. Assume you are getting what you need from Mike Vickers, but in any case we will review where you are next week and move the ball forward," King said in his letter to Vickers.
In his letter to the CIA Deputy Director Morrell, King said according to the documents, filmmakers Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow obtained the Agency's permission for at least six visits to CIA facilities.
These facilities included secure vaults within the Counter-terrorism Centre and may have also included a sensitive, covered facility located away from CIA headquarters."During these visits, the filmmakers met with a number of CIA officials, including yourself (twice). They also met with an unknown number of National Clandestine Service officers, including at least one who participated in the Abbottabad raid," King said.