According to the LA Times, Congressman Peter King of the great state of New York is urging the CIA and the Department of Defense to take a look into Kathryn Bigelow‘s forthcoming, still-untitled movie about killing Osama Bin Laden. Apparently, Mr. King thinks the government should have script approval.
Why is he calling for such a probe? It’s not readily obvious that he has any evidence to warrant it, but the movie deals with very sensitive subject matter, and that, for Mr. King, seems to be reason enough. On the one hand, it’s absolutely important that the movie not contain any classified secret or top secret information on how the raid was carried out, but on the other, what Mr. King is insinuating is that government officials and CIA members that cooperated with the production may have given out secret information.
“I’m very concerned that any sensitive information could be disclosed in a movie,” King told the Times. “The procedures and operations that we used in this raid are very likely what we’ll use in other raids. There’s no way a director would know what could be tipping off the enemy.”
Bigelow might be unaware of what sort of information is more sensitive, but certainly the CIA isn’t. Is King saying that the CIA would have knowingly or unwittingly given a film director knowledge that requires a security clearance? That seems ludicrous.
“Ridiculous” was the word White House spokesperson Jay Carney used when giving a press statement. “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,” Carney said. “That is hardly a novel approach to the media. We do not discuss classified information. And I would hope that as we face the continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie.”
According to the New York Daily News, King cited reports that writer Mark Boal was allowed into a ceremony honoring SEAL Team Six, but if he has other information, he’s not stating it just yet.
As it stands, if King is genuine in his reasoning for wanting this probe, it’s because he believes that someone in the CIA leaked information. It’s as simple as that. If he didn’t believe that, why would he want a probe? If he has a substantially concrete reason to believe that, he should say so, or call off his suggestion of an investigation. Either that, or he should make it publicly known his real reasoning for wanting to hassle a filmmaker.
Because the bottom line of all of this is that the government doesn’t get to antagonize artists just because they feel like it. Boal and Bigelow might be working on something directly related to secret information, but probing into that production without any concrete evidence would mean the government could theoretically probe into any production. Maybe that should have happened to The Smurfs, but it definitely shouldn’t happen to any other movies.
It’s downright Un-American.
As reported by Politico, King responded to the White House’s statement, saying, “What he said was nonsense — there has been so much classified information released over the last 90 days” since bin Laden was killed in a raid on his Pakistan compound.
That’s still vague considering the profound nature of King’s accusation. He also expressed concerns that the movie was going to come out close to election time, but at this time it’s unclear as to whether the CIA will launch an investigation or what that would even look like. If they do, it could grandly affect Bigelow’s production and Sony’s schedule.
Still, it might be wise here for the government to police itself here and seek cooperation from Bigelow and company. To that end, Boal and Bigelow have responded to the claims (and the editorial from Maureen Dowd claiming this film is one big PR ploy for President Obama) by saying this:
“Our upcoming film project about the decade long pursuit of bin Laden 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 the Central Intelligence Agency. Indeed, the dangerous work of finding the world’s most wanted man was carried out by individuals in the military and intelligence communities who put their lives at risk for the greater good without regard for political affiliation. 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.”
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the political edge of this story (which will get batted back and forth forever and ever and ever), but the real question here is the precedent it might set for filmmaking. If an investigation were launched, it would undoubtedly focus on the Obama administration and the government’s role in cooperating with media, but there could still be manifest effects on the film. They could be asked to come in to testify to explain what they were privy to, and it’s not a difficult leap in logic to see the government postpone the release of the film on legal grounds if they chose to do so. That’s dangerous territory to get into, no matter which side of the political spectrum you find yourself on.