Thursday, 11 August 2011

House Rep Calls for Investigation of White House Film Collaboration

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Despite the touted secrecy of the Navy SEAL assassination of Osama bin Laden, the White House is apparently collaborating with a Hollywood production company on a movie documenting the incident. The film�s production is being undertaken by the team behind the 2009 Best Picture Oscar winner The Hurt Locker. The project is provoking Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Peter King (R.-N.Y., left) to call for a Pentagon investigation into the collaboration.

There are a series of concerns raised by the production. The Blaze writes, The Pentagon confirmed its giving mission information to the films screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow.

"This film project is only in the script development phase, and DoD is providing assistance with script research, which is something we commonly do for established filmmakers," Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said. "Until there is a script to review, and a request for equipment or other DoD support, there is no formal agreement for DoD support."

According to CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf, the goal of the agency is to ensure an accurate portrayal of the mission that culminated in the murder of Osama bin Laden.

As part of our public outreach, this agency like others in our government has over the years engaged with writers, documentary filmmakers, movie and TV producers and others in the entertainment industry, said Harf. Our goal is an accurate portrayal of the men and women of the CIA, their vital mission and the commitment to public service that defines them.

Naturally, the production has raised some criticism regarding the films actual intentions. In a New York Times column, Maureen Dowd contends that the film is actual intended to counter Obamas growing reputation as ineffectual. She adds that the October 2012 release date is perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher. She writes:

The Sony film by the Oscar-winning pair who made The Hurt Locker will no doubt reflect the presidents cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds. Just as Obamaland was hoping, the movie is scheduled to open on Oct. 12, 2012 perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher.

According to Boal and Bigelow, the purpose of film is to celebrate a major victory for the American people. Our upcoming film project about the decade long pursuit of Bin Laden has been in the works for many years and integrates the collective efforts of three administrations. This was an American triumph, both heroic, and non-partisan and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent the enormous victory otherwise.

Additionally, the duo contends that the timing of the film has not been coordinated in time for Election Day but instead released in time to be considered for major award nominations, as was the case with The Social Network, which was released in early October and earned the nomination for the Best Picture. reports:

The film has been a long time coming and Boal and Bigelow were reported to be just about finished on the project, until Bin Laden was killed. Before that event, the film was about a failed attempt to take out the former terrorist. The film has now gone under a re-write in order to bring a more accurate third act.

The Pentagon had worked with Bigelow on the production of The Hurt Locker, but that collaboration ended when Bigelow decided to add several unauthorized scenes to the film, prompting a Department of Defense-sanctioned Army advisor to pull out.

New York Representative Peter King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, opposes the production of the Bin Laden film, however, asserting it could endanger national security. In a letter addressed to the inspectors general of the Defense Department and CIA, King asserts that the administration should only declassify information by reporting first to Congress and the American people.

In contrast, he writes, this alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history.

King raises a number of questions in regards to the project, including whether military officials and CIA will be permitted to screen the film prior to its release, and whether access to CIA agents could unnecessarily out those agents. He also questions how many techniques and agency methods will be compromised in the making of the film.

King pointed to a number of arrests in Pakistan as a result leaked classified information regarding the CIA raid, and contends that participation in the making of the film is bound to increase such leaks.

White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed Kings concerns, calling his claims ridiculous.

 We do not discuss classified information, said Carney, and I would hope that as we face a continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie.

Carney contends that the majority of the information provided to the production team focuses on the presidents role, perhaps proving Dowds assertions that the film is in fact intended to serve as a campaign video for Obamas re-election endeavors.

During a press conference wherein Carney addressed questions regarding the production, he said:

"When people, including you, in this room are working on articles, books, documentaries or movies that involve the president, ask to speak to administration officials, we do our best to accommodate them to make sure the facts are correct. That is hardly a novel approach to the media. We do not discuss classified information. And I would hope that as we face a continued threat from terrorism, the house committee on homeland security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie."

King retorted, however, Its ridiculous for Carney not to realize how much sensitive information there has been disclosedhe doesnt know how the enemy analyzes this inside out, how Al Qaeda or the Taliban might use something.

King is now demanding that the Defense and CIA inspector generals lay out exactly what the ground rules are, what the parameters are, whos meeting with whom to ensure that classified information about the bin Laden raid stays that way.

It shouldnt have been out there that SEAL Team 6 did this, and there have been so many details out there in press accounts, King said. And now we find out they are cooperating with a movie what are we doing?

Similarly, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, remarked earlier in the year that it was time to stop talking when a number of accurate details regarding the bin Laden raid appeared in newspapers across the country. 

We have gotten to a point where we are close to jeopardizing the precision capability that we have, said Mullen.

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