In a town that runs on access, Hollywood filmmakers get it, too — and that apparently has the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security concerned about what kind of access the Obama administration has provided to big-time filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow, who is making a movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
In a statement Wednesday, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) called on the Pentagon and the CIA to investigate the matter, saying he was worried about the possibility that classified information was leaked to Bigelow and representatives of Sony Pictures, which has acquired distribution rights to the movie.
“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,” King said. “In contrast, this alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history.”
Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, the award-winning team behind “The Hurt Locker,” have been developing a project on the bin Laden hunt since 2008. Boal is a former magazine journalist who spent time with U.S. forces in Iraq and has extensive contacts in the military.
The movie is about the decade-long “black ops” effort to capture or kill the al-Qaeda leader. Boal told The Washington Post shortly after bin Laden’s death that he wanted to focus on “the men and women ... tasked with hunting the guy.”
The creative team’s investigative savvy notwithstanding, officials Wednesday reacted to King’s call for an investigation with bemusement, arguing that the congressman indicated that his concern was sparked in part by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. In a column on Sunday, Dowd wrote that the “moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history.”
King also cited reports that Bigelow had attended a CIA ceremony in honor of the team that carried out the raid. A representative of Bigelow’s said the reports were false.
At the Pentagon, Marine Col. David Lapan said officials provided assistance to Bigelow and Boal, but he insisted that they were not provided with classified information.
A spokesman for the National Security Council called King’s claim’s “ridiculous.”
“When people 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’s hardly a novel approach to the media,” said the spokesman, Tommy Vietor. “We do not discuss classified information. I’d hope that as we face a continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss.”
King’s concerns follow a flurry of investigative reports on the killing of the al-Qaeda leader. Most recently, the New Yorker published a long, narrative reconstruction of the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Military and intelligence officials have sought to clamp down on the unauthorized disclosure of information.
King said the administration doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to keeping a tight hold on information about the raid.
“To find there’s a movie coming out and there’s been cooperation with Hollywood ... considering the track record of the last 90 days, I’m concerned,” King said in an interview.
Production of the bin Laden movie was supposed to begin later this summer. The movie is due out shortly before the November 2012 elections.
In a statement, Bigelow and Boal said their film “has been in the works for many years and integrates the collective efforts of three administrations, including those of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, as well as the cooperative strategies and implementation by the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency.”
“This was an American triumph, both heroic, and non-partisan,” they said, “and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise.”