Despite WH, Pentagon Denials, Fox Still Hypes Claim That Filmmakers Got "Classified" Info On OBL Raid

››› ››› CHELSEA RUDMAN & REMINGTON SHEPARD

Fox & Friends repeatedly hyped the claim that the White House gave filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal "access to classified information" to help them produce a film about the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, despite reporting that White House press secretary Jay Carney directly refuted such claims. In fact, the Pentagon has also denied that the filmmakers received classified information, and, moreover, the military regularly provides assistance to filmmakers who follow its guidelines.

NYT's Dowd Claims Filmmakers Receiving "Top-Level Access To The Most Classified Mission In History"

Dowd: Filmmakers Bigelow And Boal "Are Getting Top-Level Access To The Most Classified Mission In History." In her August 6 New York Times column, Maureen Dowd claimed that filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal are getting "top-level access to the most classified mission in history" from the White House for the production of their film about the killing of Osama bin Laden. From the column:

The White House is also counting on the Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal big-screen version of the killing of Bin Laden to counter Obama's growing reputation as ineffectual. The Sony film by the Oscar-winning pair who made "The Hurt Locker" will no doubt reflect the president's cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds. Just as Obamaland was hoping, the movie is scheduled to open on Oct. 12, 2012 -- perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher.

The moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration.

It was clear that the White House had outsourced the job of manning up the president's image to Hollywood when Boal got welcomed to the upper echelons of the White House and the Pentagon and showed up recently -- to the surprise of some military officers -- at a C.I.A. ceremony celebrating the hero Seals. [The New York Times, 8/6/11]

GOP Rep. Peter King Calls For Probe Into WH "Collaboration" In Bin Laden Film

Politico: King "Demanded An Investigation Into A Report That The White House Is Cooperating With A Film On The Mission To Kill Osama Bin Laden." From an August 10 Politico article:

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) on Wednesday demanded an investigation into a report that the White House is cooperating with a film on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden.

In a letter to the Defense Department and the CIA, King asked for a probe and classified briefing about any cooperation or consultation between the agencies and the producers of the film, set to be directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who in 2008 made "The Hurt Locker," which won six Oscars, including best picture and best director.

"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 wrote. "In contrast, this alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history." [Politico, 8/10/11]

Fox & Friends Runs With "Classified Information" Claim

Doocy: The Obama Administration Is Giving "Special Access" To Hollywood. On August 11, the co-hosts of Fox & Friends discussed the claim that the administration gave "classified information" to the filmmakers during several segments. In one segment, co-host Steve Doocy referred to "this special access that Hollywood is getting" and later called it "[a]ccess to classified information." Earlier in the segment, Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin had reported that White House press secretary Jay Carney denied the claim that the filmmakers received classified information. From the broadcast:

DOOCY: We're going to be talking a little more about this special access that Hollywood is getting --

PETER JOHNSON JR. (guest co-host): That really is incredible, if Maureen Dowd is accurate on that. That is absolutely incredible

DOOCY: Access to classified information?

JOHNSON: It's incredible --

DOOCY: For a movie that is going to come out three weeks before the re-election?

JOHNSON: Before the --

DOOCY: Coincidence?

JOHNSON: Before the re-election, afterwards? Any way you cut it, it's not good. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/11/11]

Carlson: "Some People ... Are Concerned That Quite Possibly The White House May Have Given Special Privileges Or Even Classified Information" To Filmmakers. Later during the broadcast, co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed that "there are some people who are concerned that quite possibly the White House may have given special privileges or even classified information to Sony for an upcoming Osama bin Laden movie." The co-hosts again briefly noted that Carney denied the claim. From the broadcast:

CARLSON: Let's talk a little bit about what's happening back here at the White House because there are some people who are concerned that quite possibly the White House may have given special privileges or even classified information to Sony for an upcoming Osama bin Laden movie. Now, congressman Peter King out of New York is asking for an investigation. You may remember that Kathryn Bigelow, she was the director and producer, I believe, on the other highly successful movie, it's escaping my memory right now.

DOOCY: The Hurt Locker.

CARLSON: The Hurt Locker, right.

DOOCY: Won an Oscar.

CARLSON: And she's been working on the Osama bin Laden movie for some time. In fact, she was working on it obviously before he was captured and now has had to change the story line. But ironically it's coming out October, 2012.

DOOCY: Yeah.

CARLSON: Why is that important? Because November is the election for the presidency of the United States.

DOOCY: Yeah, it's coming out three weeks before the election, and remember, the bin Laden raid was one of the biggest moments in this administration's history thus far. I mean, the administration would really like a movie that shows a positive President Obama, really in charge doing those gutsy moves.

Now, here's the problem. Gretch just mentioned that Congressman King is very upset, because apparently, there are -- and he sent a letter to the Pentagon and the CIA saying, hey, did you let these filmmakers in on any secrets? Now Maureen Dowd writes that apparently, the filmmakers did have access to classified information. She wrote that in The New York Times. Also, apparently there are reports that the writer was at a closed door meeting, apparently, I think at the CIA, where they were talking -- where they were talking about the team that brought down bin Laden. The meeting was classified. What was he doing there? The White House says don't worry, we didn't do anything wrong. Here's Mr. Carney.

CARNEY [video clip]: We do not discuss classified information. And I would hope that as we face a continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than the movie.

DOOCY: How about --

CARLSON: That all depends on what actually is exposed in the movie. But anyway, that's the White House response. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/11/11]

But Both The White House And Pentagon Have Denied The "Classified Information" Claim ...

Carney: "The Claims Are Ridiculous ... We Do Not Discuss Classified Information." As Fox & Friends itself noted, Carney addressed the claims during his press briefing on August 10. From a White House transcript of the briefing:

Q: Peter King, the congressman, is calling for an investigation based on a report in Maureen Dowd's column today saying that Sony Pictures moviemakers doing the OBL raid movie have been given top-level access to the most clarified -- classified mission in history from an administration that's tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified administration than the Bush administration. I think Mr. King is less involved, less concerned about the last part. But what's your response to that report -- both King's interest and also the inherent criticism that Maureen Dowd is -

MR. CARNEY: Well, I do have a response to that. First of all, the claims are ridiculous. When people, including you, in this room are 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 is hardly a novel approach to the media.

We do not discuss classified information. And I would hope that as we face a continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie.

The information that this White House has provided about that mission has been focused on the President's role in -- there is no difference in the information that we've given to anybody who is working on this topic from what we gave to those of you in this room who worked on it in the days and weeks after the raid itself. In fact, the most specific information we've given from this White House about the actual raid I read to you from this podium. So it's simply false. [White House, 8/10/11]

WSJ: Pentagon Spokesman Said " 'It Is [A] Violation Of The Law To Provide Classified Information' To People Not Cleared To Receive It." From an August 10 post on the Wall Street Journal blog Washington Wire:

Col. David Lapan, the Pentagon spokesman, said that the Defense Department was providing assistance to director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, the team leading the bin Laden project for Sony Pictures. But Col. Lapan said that no classified information would be provided to the filmmakers.

"It is the violation [sic] of the law to provide classified information" to people not cleared to receive it, Col. Lapan said. [Washington Wire, 8/10/11, emphasis in original]

... And The Military Regularly Helps Filmmakers Who Follow Its Guidelines

U.S. Army Maintains Entertainment Office To "Assist Film, Television, And Video Game Professionals." The U.S. Army maintains an Office of the Chief of Public Affairs in Los Angeles, CA, that "is the entertainment industry's direct liaison to the United States Army," according to the office's website. [Army.mil, accessed 8/11/11]

U.S. Air Force Has "Entertainment Liaison Office" In L.A. The U.S. Air Force also maintains an "entertainment liaison office" in Los Angeles. Its website notes that "recently supported projects" include Iron Man 2, Army Wives, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. [Air Force, accessed 8/11/11]

Army Has Specific Guidelines For "Fully Supporting Entertainment Industry Requests." From the U.S. Army's website:

What criteria are used to determine if my production will be approved?

The following criteria are used to judge the possibility of fully supporting entertainment industry requests.

  • The production must benefit the Department of Defense or otherwise be in the national interest based on the following factors:
  • The production must help increase public understanding of the Armed Forces and the Department of Defense.
  • The production should help Armed Forces recruiting and retention programs.
  • The production must be authentic in its portrayal of persons, places, actual military operations or historical events. Fictional portrayals must depict a feasible interpretation of military life, operations and policies.
  • The production should not appear to condone or endorse activities by private citizens or organizations that are contrary to U.S. Government policy.
  • The producer must agree to sign and abide by the production agreement and DODI5410.16 (you will receive copies of both documents early in your coordination).
  • Military assets requested must be available when required. [Army.mil, accessed 8/11/11, emphasis original]

DODI5410.16 Outlines "DoD Assistance To Non-Government, Entertainment-Oriented Motion Picture, Television, And Video Productions." The Department of Defense Instruction referred to the Army's guidelines outlines the Department's policies about when the government may provide "assistance ... to entertainment-oriented motion picture, television, or video productions." The guidelines include the assertion: "Operational readiness of the Armed Forces shall not be impaired. Diversion of equipment, personnel, and material resources shall be kept to a minimum, and shall only be on a non-interference with military operations and training basis." [Dtic.mil, accessed 8/11/11]

Politico's Ben Smith: "Peter King's ... Outrage At White House Cooperation With A Film About The Killing Of Osama Bin Laden Pretty Much Ignores A Long History Of Government Cooperation With Hollywood." In an August 11 post, Politico's Ben Smith wrote:

Pete King's classic and entertaining outrage at White House cooperation with a film about the killing of Osama bin Laden pretty much ignores a long history of government cooperation with Hollywood.

It also specifically ignores this memorable anecdote from the administration of Obama's immediate predecessor, who invited a conservative filmmaker in to meet with the president for his glowing docudrama on Bush's handling of 9/11:

As fate would have it, [Lionel] Chetwynd, who describes himself as the only 'naked, out-of-the-closet Republican' in Hollywood, soon ran into Karl Rove, chief political adviser, who along with a lot of other top Bush administration officials opened his door to help Mr. Chetwynd with research for the script.

'DC 9/11,' it turns out, is not just a piece of Hollywood fantasy by an admirer of the president, but something the White House spent many hours cooperating with. It reflects not just how the writer wants the events to be seen, but how the Bush administration wants itself remembered. [Politico, 8/11/11]

Fox Itself Has Received Military Aid For Entertainment Purposes

20th Century Fox-Produced 24 Received "Script Research And Dialogue Assistance" Aid From Air Force." According to the Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office (AFELO), former 20th Century Fox show 24 received help in the form of "[s]cript research and dialogue assistance" and an "F-15 aircraft from Air National Guard unit." [Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office, accessed 8/11/11; gei.newscorp.com, accessed 8/11/11]

20th Century Fox-Produced Show Prison Break Also Received "Script Research Assistance." According to the Air Force. According to the AFELO, former 20th Century Fox show Prison Break also received help in the form of "[s]cript research assistance." [Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office, accessed 8/11/11; IMDB, accessed 8/11/11]

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