CIA Emails Reveal How Hollywood Won Rights to Bin Laden Killing Details

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Multiple Hollywood groups vied for the Obama administration’s help in telling the story of how the U.S. tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden. But it’s clear from newly released documents from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense that only one project was the favorite of Washington officials.


Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, the duo who behind the Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker and the upcoming film on the mission to kill bin Laden (Zero Dark Thirty), were clearly preferred over three other competitors seeking to retell how Navy SEALs got America’s most sought after terrorist.


In a June 15, 2011, email from the Pentagon to the White House, the Bigelow/Boal film was characterized as the “most mature and high-profile project.” The same email downplayed the other three projects involving the History Channel, the BBC and former New York Times reporter, now author, Howard Blum.

CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf was quoted as saying it made “sense to get behind the winning horse...Mark and Kathryn’s movie is going to be the first and the biggest. It’s got the most money behind it, and two Oscar winners on board.”


The emails became public after the conservative legal group Judicial Watch obtained them through the Freedom of Information Act. The emails make it clear that the cooperation with Boal and Bigelow was with the “full knowledge and full approval/support” of then CIA Director Leon Panetta and assistant secretary of defense for special operations Mike Vickers.


Zero Dark Thirty was reportedly set for release in October, before the presidential election. Now, the film has been rescheduled for a December opening.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

CIA Emails Reveal Winners and Losers of National Security Access (by John Hudson, Atlantic Wire)

Judicial Watch Obtains Stack of ‘Overlooked’ CIA Records Detailing Meetings with bin Laden Filmmakers (Judicial Watch)


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