Secrets revealed to SEAL film producers, CIA says; delayed report on Panetta remarks

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The CIA’s inspector general has concluded that agency officials did not always follow rules for safeguarding sensitive information when they briefed Hollywood producers making a movie about the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, according to a lawmaker who was briefed on the watchdog’s findings.

In addition, the Pentagon’s inspector general has been accused of delaying a report that says then-CIA Director Leon E. Panetta disclosed top-secret information to the filmmakers at a June 2011 awards ceremony for the bin Laden raid’s participants.

News of the Obama administration’s security breaches comes as the Justice Department is defending its use of its subpoena power to monitor the telephone records of editors and reporters at The Associated Press and the personal emails of James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, during an investigation of administration leaks.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is holding a court-martial for an Army private who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks more than three years ago.

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, called for the CIA and Pentagon inspectors general investigations in August 2011, when he became concerned about reports that classified or sensitive information might have been disclosed to Hollywood executives working on the film “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Mr. King said Wednesday that he recently had received a “formal oral interim report” from the CIA’s office of inspector general, which has made three preliminary findings in its ongoing investigation:

• The CIA's Office of Public Affairs “did not keep adequate records” of its dealings with director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal.

• In their dealings with the filmmakers, “CIA employees did not always comply with regulations designed to protect sensitive information.”

• The agency did not seek as much money as it should have from the filmmakers for reimbursement of the costs of the cooperation extended to them.

The CIA declined to comment.

Mr. King also was fiercely critical of the delay in finalizing the Pentagon’s inspector general’s report, saying that he has been “hearing for months” that the report is ready.

The delay is “as significant if not more so that the actual findings,” he said.

A copy of a classified draft of the report was posted online Wednesday by the anti-government waste watchdog group Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

The report concludes that Mr. Panetta disclosed top-secret information at the awards ceremony, held in June 2011 at CIA headquarters.

POGO obtained congressional staffers’ emails from December 2012 in which they said they believed the inspector general's office was “sitting on [the report] until Secretary Panetta retires.”

Mr. Panetta was CIA director from 2009 to mid-2011, and defense secretary from mid-2011 until earlier this year. He did not respond to several requests for comment.

In the emails, an inspector general’s office employee told a congressional staffer: “There is a version ready to hit the street, been long time ready to hit the street … but we will see if that happens anytime soon. Highly unusual tight controls and tactical involvement from senior leadership on this project.”

The employee said the matter reflects broader problems in his office: “I have grave concerns that the message and findings are now controlled and subject to undue influence across the board at [the Department of Defense office of inspector general]. I have never experienced or seen so much influence or involvement by outsiders now in developing and issuing oversight reports.”

Mr. King noted that the inspector general's office is supposed to a “completely independent” watchdog.

“If the POGO report is accurate, it certainly appears that there was interference,” he said.

During the awards ceremony, “Director Panetta specifically recognized the unit that conducted the raid and identified the ground commander by name,” the report says. “According to the DoD Office of Security Review, the individual’s name is protected from public release.”

Mr. Panetta also disclosed information identified as top-secret signals intelligence and secret information requiring the use of special measures to protect it, known as “Secret/ACCM,” according to the report.

The report says that special operations personnel at the event were surprised to discover that an uncleared outsider was present.

At a reception following the ceremony, Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, special forces chief and one of the raid’s overseers, was introduced to a person “identified as the maker of ‘The Hurt Locker,’” the draft report says.

“Adm. McRaven and DoD special operators present were all ‘universally surprised and shocked’ that a Hollywood executive attended,” the report says.

The Pentagon’s office of inspector general denied it is delaying its release of the report.

“We are working diligently to complete the project as quickly as possible,” said Bridget Ann Serchak, an office spokeswoman, adding there was as yet no projected date for completion. “Once it is released, if it is unclassified, it will be posted.”

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About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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