Obama administration ignores its own warnings, opens up to Hollywood on bin Laden raid

Josh Gerstein at Politico reports that just weeks after Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency officials warned publicly of the dangers posed by leaks about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, top officials at both agencies and at the White House granted Hollywood filmmakers unusual access to those involved in planning the raid and some of the methods they used to do it. Gerstein bases his report in part on newly released government documents. The documents were released pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request by Judical Watch, a conservative watchdog group.

During a briefing, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Mike Vickers said this to filmmakers Michael Boal and Katherine Bigelow:

On the operators side, Adm. McRaven and Adm. Olson do not want to talk directly, because it’s just a bad, their [sic] just concerned as commanders of the force and they’re telling them all the time—don’t you dare talk to anybody, that it’s just a bad example if it gets out—even with all sorts of restrictions and everything.

But Admiral McRaven agreed to “make a guy available who was involved from the beginning as a planner, a SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander.”

Vickers added:

He’ll speak for operators and he’ll speak for senior military commanders. The only thing we ask is that you not reveal his name in any way as a consultant because again it’s the same thing, he shouldn’t be talking out of school, this at least gives him one step removed and he knows what he can and can’t say, but this way at least he can be as open as he can with you and it ought to meet your needs and give you lots of color

Bigelow, who directed “The Hurt Locker,” couldn’t believe her good fortune. “That’s incredible,” she gushed.

Indeed, it is.

The filmmakers’ access also extended to the Obama White House which, as we know, has been seeking to maximize the political advantage to be had from the killing of bin Laden. According to Gerstein, “Boal apparently met with National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Deputy National Security Adviser for Counterterrorism John Brennan.” However, there are few details on those meetings in the released records, as the White House is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

A Democratic lobbying shop, Glover Park Group, has its footprints in this episode. It helped arrange some of the meetings. The names of Glover’s Sarah Zukowski and Michael Feldman, a former aide to Vice President Al Gore, appear on various e-mails related to the sessions.

Lobbying is a way of life in Washington, of course, and access is part of what people purchase from lobbyists. But one might have hoped that the practice would not encompass purchasing access to national security officials so they can “talk out of school.” Unfortunately, in this administration all bets are off when it comes to the related goals of accommodating Hollywood and glorifying Barack Obama.