Did Obama leak secrets to Bigelow Bin Laden film?

Aug 11, 2011
Rachel Helyer-Donaldson

Obama administration accused of helping Bigelow’s Bin Laden film to boost 2012 election chances

A Republican congressman has demanded an inquiry into whether the White House has given Kathryn Bigelow access to highly classified files to make her film about the killing of Osama bin Laden in order to boost President Barack Obama's chances of re-election. The Oscar-winning director's untitled project is set to be released in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election.

New York congressman Peter King, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has called for the Pentagon and CIA to investigate whether Bigelow and scriptwriter Mark Boal, the team behind the Oscar-winning Iraq war film The Hurt Locker, were given tip-offs detailing how US Navy Seals tracked down and eventually killed Bin Laden.

King's demand follows an article in the New York Times in which columnist Maureen Dowd claimed that the filmmakers had received "top-level access to the most classified mission in history". Dowd also noted that the Bin Laden film, which tells the story of one of Obama's biggest successes, will be released on October 12 2012 – just weeks before the presidential election, "perfectly timed", as Dowd put it, "to give a home-stretch boost" to the Democrats.
King cited Dowd's article in his letter to the inspectors general of the Department of Defense and the CIA. He also suggested that the "alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favour of a cinematographic view of history".
Both the filmmakers and the White House have denied that any information has been leaked. In a statement Bigelow and Boal said that the film covered the "collective efforts" of the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations and argued that the mission to find Bin Laden had risen above "political affiliation". The statement concluded: "This was an American triumph, both heroic and non-partisan, and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise."
White House spokesman Jay Carney called the claims of preferential treatment "ridiculous", adding that the filmmakers had access to the same information that was given to the media.
The idea that Bigelow and Boal were receiving tip-offs from the White House may have been strengthened by earlier reports that they were already working on a film called Killing Bin Laden when the al-Qaeda leader was shot dead in his Pakistan compound on May 2. The Hollywood website Deadline.com reported that the film focused on an earlier attempt by the US Navy Seals to hunt down Bin Laden and, after the al-Qaeda leader's death, called it one of the "timeliest movies in Hollywood now".

Yet Deadline reporter Mike Fleming dismisses the notion that the filmmakers could change their project thanks to leaks from the White House. "Clearly, they had already done a lot of research on the ground because they didn't take that long to change the movie and add a satisfying ending. Boal has a foreign correspondent background, and he developed and used contacts in the military and the Middle East to shape The Hurt Locker."

The fact that there are two other projects being made about the US Navy Seals - Peter Berg's Lone Survivor and, as The First Post has reported, one starring the Navy Seals themselves, Act of Valor - suggests that it is unlikely Bigelow and Boal were getting special information, Fleming adds.

"Divulging classified [material] is a serious matter, but the film is a drama, not a documentary, and the facts behind the successful hunt of Bin Laden have been widely reported by now."

Sign up for our daily newsletter