Thanks to a crusade by House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Peter King (R-New York), the Pentagon and the CIA are investigating how Hollywood filmmakers got government cooperation in the making of Untitled Osama Bin Laden film.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal apparently received some level of assistance in their research for the Sony Pictures Entertainment project that Bigelow, who helmed Oscar-winner The Hurt Locker and beloved male bonding policier Point Break, says will chronicle efforts to neutralize bin Laden dating back to the Clinton Administration.
King has since August been demanding an investigation into whether the filmmakers received any operational details about the May 2011 mission during which the al Qaeda founder was shot and killed by U.S. forces.
Leave aside why any American, let alone a proud daughter of California like Kathryn Bigelow, who has created more value than Pete King ever will, should be denied access to details of the bin Laden mission. Leave aside King's disturbing-if-true claim that the killing of bin Laden – an act of obvious moment and significance to all Americans – is the "most classified mission in history."
Journalists have tried, with varying degrees of success, to get the full story of bin Laden's death. Some subsequent reports have conflicted with elements of the official narrative. King is consistent in his devotion to the same type of secrecy the conquering Soviet army applied to the scene of Adolf Hitler's death. He doesn't want any American to know the story.
But the establishment media seem to believe there's a bright line between journalistic inquiry and research for a commercial film. King's original tirade, and that "most classified" phrase, came from a Maureen Dowd column ridiculing Bigelow and Boal's "top-level" access. Dowd to her credit contrasted this with the Obama Administration's abysmal record of punishing leakers and put the episode in the context of President Obama's dependence on Los Angeles' wealthiest one percent. (You'll be relieved to learn that U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas Nicole Avant has been recalled to Tinseltown in an effort to shore up Obama's movieland relations.)
Other media have taken King's all-secrecy premise at face value. The Seattle Times notes that movie people are not the only ones interested in learning more about the raid but does not raise any questions about government intimidation of free inquiry, as you'd expect if this were a matter of journalists seeking access to information:
At issue is whether the filmmakers…were given access to classified information about the mission that ended in bin Laden's death. While newspapers and magazines have published detailed accounts about the May raid, much remains unknown to all but a few.
I'm just an old country doctor who prefers an informed electorate, but I can think of other reasons why more than "a few" should know the accurate story of how America's first important enemy of the 21st century was killed. I don't expect whatever Potemkin version of events the Obama Administration arranged for the filmmakers will fill huge gaps in our understanding. But Kathryn Bigelow is as legitimate a researcher as any journalist, and not just because she makes good movies. (Yes damn your eyes, I will stand up for K-19: The Widowmaker.) If there's a scandal here it's that the administration gave a few people special access to information that should be available to all of us.