Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained more than 200 pages of documents from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), including a previously unreleased CIA internal report confirming that former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed classified information at a June 24, 2011, bin Laden assault awards ceremony attended by “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Mark Boal. The documents were produced in response to a June 21, 2013, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Significantly, the entire transcript of the Panetta speech provided to Judicial Watch by the CIA 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 the filmmaker who lacked top security clearance.
At the conclusion his speech, the transcript shows 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.”
During the speech, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report released earlier this year, “Director Panetta specifically recognized the unit that conducted the raid and identified the ground commander by name.” Subsequent to the ceremony, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said, “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.” Significantly, for some reason, the final IG report omitted any reference to Panetta’s disclosure of “TOP SECRET” and other sensitive information at an event.”
Also, included in the documents provided to Judicial Watch is an October 22, 2012, internal “Review of UBL Awards Ceremony Attendance” written by the CIA Office of Security (OS) concluding that, “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 three-page Review also states, “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.”
Highlights of the newly released documents also include:
- 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.”
- Information revealing that there were actually two classification reviews conducted by the Original Classification Authority (OCA) because the original transcript of Panetta’s speech provided by the CIA to the DOD Inspector General was inaccurate and incomplete: “ISPA [Intelligence and Special Program Assessments] discovered proof of inconsistencies and lack of information on the original transcript received by the CIA in comparison to the video recording. As a result of the inaccurate transcript, OGC determined the OCAs determination are not valid and must been resubmitted for another OCA determination to include the verbatim information.”
- A CIA Review reference suggesting that former CIA Chief of Staff (then DOD Chief of Staff) Jeremy Bash as the individual responsible for directing the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs to allow Boal to attend the ceremony: “… OS [Office of Security] did speak with an OPA [Office of Public Affairs] representative who was involved in the ceremony, who advised that the ODCIA [Office of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency] directed Mr. Boal to attend the ceremony.” This appears to confirm information provided in the DOD IG report: “[T]he CIA PAO contacted the DOD PAO to state that efforts failed and the ‘Chief of Staff’ directed that the Hollywood executive be given access to the event.”
The inclusion of Boal at the CIA ceremony was not the only instance of the Obama administration apparently attempting to influence the production of the “Zero Dark Thirty” movie. In August 2012, Judicial Watch released records it obtained from the CIA and the Department of Defense pursuant to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit regarding meetings and communications between government agencies, Boal, and film director Kathryn Bigelow, as they prepared to shoot “Zero Dark Thirty.” According to a June 15, 2011, email from Benjamin Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor 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.”
“The new CIA internal documents obtained confirm conclusively that former CIA Director Panetta breeched national security in order to curry favor with Hollywood filmmakers who the Obama administration hoped would make a pro-Obama film,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The sensitivities about classified leaks from this administration don’t seem to extend to top level officials like Mr. Panetta. This new information suggests that a criminal probe of this dangerous leak is appropriate.”
Panetta said through a spokesman that he didn’t know Boal was in the room.
“I had no idea that individual was in the audience,” Panetta said in a statement. “To this day, I wouldn’t know him if he walked into the room.” Panetta spokesman Jeremy Bash said Panetta assumed everyone in the audience had the proper clearance to hear the speech.
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said the CIA has since “overhauled its procedures for interaction with the entertainment industry after an extensive internal review.” He said the agency now maintains “a centralized record-keeping system for entertainment industry requests and, earlier this year, issued detailed guidance on contact with the industry and support for entertainment-related projects,” to make sure classified material is protected.
Boal declined to comment.