Filmmaker Got Secret Information On Bin Laden Raid By Siobhan Gorman

Wall Street Journal
June 6, 2013
Pg. 6

Former Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta inadvertently disclosed top-secret information to a Hollywood screenwriter about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, according to a draft Defense Department report and former officials familiar with the events.

In a June 2011 speech at a ceremony to mark the successful raid weeks earlier, Mr. Panetta recognized the unit of Navy SEALs that carried it out, according to the report drafted by officials in the Pentagon inspector general’s office. Mr. Panetta “identified the ground commander by name” and provided information the Pentagon classifies as secret, the report said. In the audience was Mark Boal, screenwriter for the film “Zero Dark Thirty,” who had been invited by the CIA to attend.

The draft report, which hasn’t been formally released, doesn’t make a judgment on the propriety of Mr. Panetta’s action or accuse him of any wrongdoing. One person familiar with the matter said the draft was an early version that since had been revised significantly and that the final version expected to be released next week would likely make only a glancing, if any, reference to Mr. Panetta.

Mr. Panetta said through a spokesman he had “no idea who was in the audience” and “assumed everybody there was cleared” to hear the speech.

The report was first disclosed Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit group that promotes government openness.

The Obama administration has faced criticism for its aggressive pursuit of national-security leaks, including such moves as obtaining phone records of Associated Press reporters and emails of a Fox News reporter without obtaining their permission.

One person familiar with the Pentagon report said the leak of it has sparked a government investigation of its own.

Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), a member of the House intelligence committee who requested the Pentagon report, said the findings show how the administration provided a Hollywood filmmaker “access to events they shouldn’t have access to” at the same time it was pursuing reporters in leak cases. He said Congress should consider launching its own investigation.

The Pentagon said it wouldn’t comment on the report because it hadn’t been released. Asked about the report Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said he couldn’t weigh in because he hadn’t seen it.

The report is one of a number of investigations into the administration’s handling of “Zero Dark Thirty,” which was released late last year and recounted the hunt for bin Laden.

The movie spawned investigations into whether CIA officers had improper contact with the filmmakers and how the agency’s public-affairs office works with Hollywood, according to officials familiar with the inquiries.

Mr. King said the CIA’s preliminary findings included that the agency didn’t always comply with its own regulations on the release of classified information to the entertainment industry and couldn’t document whether it provided preferential treatment to Hollywood figures.

Mr. Boal declined to comment. The CIA declined to comment on its own reviews and the draft Pentagon report. A spokesman said the “CIA continues to look at our processes to address the concerns Rep. King raised.”

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