The normally tight-lipped Obama administration is reportedly giving a Hollywood production company access to sensitive intelligence information, in an effort to help produce a film about the Osama bin Laden raid. Why would the White House do something like this, you might wonder? It could have something to do with the movie’s well-timed release date – a month before the 2012 election.
At the moment, there aren’t many details about what type of information is actually being given to the production company. We only know that Maureen Dowd (who broke the story) characterized it as “top-level access” to the mission, which could encompass a whole range of possibilities.
Fortunately, House Homeland Security Chair Peter King is trying to get some answers:
“[The] Administration’s first duty in declassifying material is to provide full reporting to Congress and the American people, in an effort to build public trust through transparency of government. In contrast, this alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history.”
King’s letter includes a list of questions, which you can read in full on his website. But the gist of it is he’s trying to find out whether military and CIA officials are on board with the plan, or whether they’ve been pressured into allowing access to the production company. King also asks whether a film will be provided to the military and CIA for pre-approval and what steps the administration has taken to ensure no harmful information was released.
There are several concerns here. The first is obviously the risk to national security by allowing a Hollywood production company access to such a sensitive operation. If any information gets out that identifies the SEALs involved or reveals classified strategy, it could easily be exploited by terrorist groups and complicate future operations.
Then there’s the potential ethical ramifications. Even if no damaging information was accessed by the filmmakers, there’s still the question of whether there was a risk of this happening. Is it possible the administration could have actually put our national security in jeopardy for some good pre-election publicity?
With the movie’s planned release date just a month before the 2012 election, there’s no doubt the White House has a political interest here. The film’s director, Kathryn Bigelow, was reportedly also a major Obama supporter in 2008. At a showing for her last big film, the controversial Iraq war picture “Hurt Locker,” Bigelow gushed to the crowd she “hoped and prayed” U.S. troops would return home “immediately,” according to a Sept. 4, 2008 Agence France Presse article.
“And only one man is capable of doing that, and that’s Mr. Barack Obama,” Bigelow said, adding she hopes “war becomes obsolete and diplomacy replaces it.”
Bigelow being in the tank for the president is troubling enough. But it also seems wildly irresponsible to allow someone with her politicized and naïve view of national security to access sensitive intelligence information. Especially when she’s admitted her previous work had political goals.
I’m all for government transparency, but there are way too many red flags in this story. I hope we find out Dowd’s definition of “top-level intelligence access” turns out to be something totally innocuous. But for now, Rep. King’s right to be raising alarms.