Zero Transparency

Zero Transparency

The right to hold government accountable and to obtain unclassified information to keep it in check is fundamental to a healthy democracy. If Watergate taught us anything, it was that elected officials at every level are capable of wrongdoing. The Freedom of Information Act was conceived for the purpose of making government more transparent, and thus less prone to engage in deceptive practices.

Zero Dark Thirty is the Oscar-contending film about the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound by Navy SEALs, resulting in the death of the mastermind of 9/11. The Obama Administration consulted on the picture, resulting in direct cooperation between the CIA, the Pentagon, the White House and the film's directors and producers.

But how was such high-level cooperation between Hollywood and national security officials arranged? After all, the Pentagon has threatened Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, writing under the pen name Mark Owen, with criminal charges for failing to have his bestselling book, "No Easy Day, cleared for publication by the Pentagon. I read the book, and the movie's depiction of the bin Laden raid tracks its narrative faithfully -- even though co-producers Katheryn Bigalow and Mark Boal reportedly did not rely on Bissonnette's account.

Why is this administration sharing classified national security secrets with Hollywood filmmakers and leaking information about the raid on the one hand while discrediting a military hero on the other?

A Freedom of Information Act request filed by Judicial Watch sheds light on the duplicity of the Obama Administration's close relationship with Hollywood elites. There is a lot to read in the redacted documents the CIA has released and I haven't read it all yet, but consider this July 15, 2011, exchange between Bigalow (KB), Boal (MB) and CIA Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vicks (MV) concerning who the CIA would provide as a consultant able to divulge details of classified operations (with my emphasis):

MV: ... What I can't promise you really is [someone] at the [Department of Defense] senior level, whether I'll be [your contact] or if there will be a few others.... I've been told to do for you what [CIA Deputy Director and current Acting Director] Michael Morrell and others [have done], so that's what I'm going to try to do for you.... Now on the operators [i.e., military operations] side, Admiral McRaven and Admiral Olson do not want to talk directly, because it's just a bad -- their just concerned as commanders of the force and they're telling them all the time, don't you dare talk to anybody, that it's just a bad example if it gets out, even with all sorts of restrictions and everything.

MB: I'll take [REDACTED NAME] or someone like that.

MV: Well the basic idea is they'll make a guy available who was involved from the beginning as a planner; a SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander.

MB: Are you talking about [REDACTED NAME]?

MV: A guy named [REDACTED NAME]. And so, he basically can probably give you everything you would want or would get from Adm. Olson or Adm. McRaven.

MB: That's dynamite - by the way.

KB: That's incredible!

MB: This is me happy.

MV: And so, he'll speak for operators and he'll speak for senior military commanders, because their all the same tribe and everything, and so you should get most of what you need from him. Now, again the reason Adm. Olson and Adm. McRaven didn't want to talk is this command conflict of interest. And the only thing we ask is that you not reveal his name in any way as a consultant, because same thing, he shouldn't be talking out of school, this at least, this gives him one step removed and he knows what he can and can't say, but this way at least he can be as open as he can with you and it ought to meet your needs and give you lots of color.

KB: Fabulous.

MB: That's dynamite.

MV: So we'll put you in touch with him or have him get in touch with you - at the end of this meeting. And whatever your schedule is we'll make that work, I just haven't had a chance to talk with him.

This is a scene depicting collusion between filmmakers and the government to reveal information commanding officers are prohibited from revealing. What is the identity of this rogue figure? We know from this exchange that:

(a) He is a male,

(b) He was involved from the beginning as a planner, a SEAL team operator and commander,

(c) He's part of the same "tribe" that includes the operational forces (SEAL team operatives) and senior commanders but apparently is not active military,

(d) The filmakers are genuinely impressed, and

(e) He cannot publicly reveal his identity because he knows he is "talking out of school." In its ordinary sense, the phrase "talking out of school" means that someone is talking about something they do not have knowledge about. Here, it sounds as if it is someone in the "tribe," who also is not military (at least not at that time).

The identity of the consultant is less an issue than the fact that his name is being withheld from the public. What possible basis could justify redacting his name? That is an issue Judicial Watch is likely to pursue zealously.

In revealing the lengths to which this Administration will go to conceal wrongdoing from the American public, the script for the making of Zero Dark Thirty may be just as thrilling as the film itself. Obama ran on a platform of transparency; his administration was to become the most transparent in history. Unfortunately, there is zero transparency in this administration.

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