Filmmakers, Obama administration say bin Laden movie is not a campaign ploy

Rachel Rose Hartman

Filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal responded Wednesday to accusations that their movie on the capture of Osama bin Laden is a ploy to boost the president's re-election campaign.

The New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote on Sunday that the Obama administration is granting the filmmakers access for the president's electoral benefit. "Just as Obamaland was hoping, the movie is scheduled to open on Oct. 12, 2012--perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher," Dowd wrote."The moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration."

Bigelow and Boal, who collaborated on Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker, disputed the suggestion Wednesday in a joint statement issued to Entertainment Weekly, the Hollywood Reporter, and elsewhere.

"Our upcoming film project about the decade long pursuit of Bin Laden has been in the works for many years and integrates the collective efforts of three administrations, including those of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama," in addition to the Department of Defense and the CIA, they say. "This was an American triumph, both heroic and non-partisan," they said of the mission, "and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise."

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, yesterday called for an investigation into the claims of access and classified information being shared for political benefit.

"The Administration's first duty in declassifying material is to provide full reporting to Congress and the American people, in an effort to build public trust through transparency of government," King wrote in a letter to Defense Department Inspector General Gordon Heddell and CIA Inspector General David Buckley. "In contrast, this alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history."

The White House directly disputed King's accusations Wednesday and said no classified information has been released. "The claims are ridiculous," White House spokesman Jay Carney said during his press briefing. Carney added that when writers and filmmakers ask to speak with administration officials, the White House simply tries to oblige and ensure accuracy.

"We do not discuss classified information. And I would hope that as we face a continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie," Carney added.

Philip Strub, the Pentagon's director of entertainment media, confirmed to CNN that he had a single meeting with Bigelow and her team, but added "we go to great lengths not to reveal classified information." Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan said Bigelow's team had other Defense Department meetings of the type the Pentagon apparently provides to established filmmakers on a regular basis.

Even some critics on the left--who view King's protest through a partisan lens--say this flap could be a good thing for transparency.

"Regardless of King's opportunistic motives, his move finally creates the possibility for a more comprehensive look at how our government as a whole--whether under Democratic or Republican administrations--now regularly and systemically uses taxpayer resources to suffuse our popular culture with 'cinematographic' militarist ideology, and uses those same taxpayer resources to try to prevent anti-militarist messages from being aired," writes the liberal writer and talk radio host David Sirota in Salon.