Bin Laden Filmmakers Got "Unprecedented Access" to National Security Officials

| Wed May 23, 2012 9:40 AM EDT
President Obama and his advisers observe the raid that killed Osama bin Laden from the White House.

Top Obama administration officials provided details about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden to filmmakers working on a movie about the operation even as the White House was trying to keep those same details out of the media, Bloomberg reports:

The Obama administration promised a Hollywood filmmaker unprecedented access to the top-secret Navy unit that killed Osama bin Laden to help her make a feature film on the operation at the same time it was publicly ordering officials to stop talking about the raid.

The Pentagon’s top intelligence official, Michael Vickers, offered Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow interviews with a member of the SEAL team that helped plan last year’s assault on bin Laden’s compound, according to a transcript of a July 15 meeting that was released yesterday by Judicial Watch, a Washington-based legal organization.

This reflects an ongoing double-standard in how the Obama administration handles information related to national security. This White House is certainly not the first to leak sensitive information with the intention of shaping the media narrative (see Iraq War, the). But the Obama team's highly selective release of information has been paired with an unusually aggressive pursuit of leakers. The current administration has pursued more leak investigations than all previous administrations combined, including several against individuals who were clearly acting in the public interest

When the government gets involved in a film like this one, it has a great deal of power to shape how the film comes out. The Obama administration is understandably concerned about how this story is told, since it will likely play a significant role in shaping the legacy of the man currently in office. But there's still something grating and profoundly hypocritical about the discrepancy between how whistleblowers are treated compared to those "authorized" to leak such information.

When the White House is shaping how a story is told, inconvenient information almost invariably gets downplayed or left out. I hope the final film will include at least some acknowledgement of the Pakistani doctor who was just sentenced to thirty years in prison for treason for allegedly helping the CIA locate bin Laden.

Adam Serwer is filling in while Kevin is on vacation.

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