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Originally published January 5, 2012 at 10:05 PM | Page modified January 6, 2012 at 7:16 AM

New intrigue over U.S. role in bin Laden film

Newly released letters from the Pentagon and the CIA indicate they will examine their cooperation with Sony Pictures Entertainment and director Kathryn Bigelow on a forthcoming bin Laden film.

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Joel Edgerton, Jessica Chastain, Edgar Ramirez and Mark Strong are among the actors negotiating for roles in the Osama bin Laden movie, which is scheduled to begin filming in February, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Edgerton recently starred in "Warrior," while Chastain was catapulted into the spotlight after appearing in "The Help" and "Tree of Life." Strong portrayed Sinestro in "Green Lantern," and Ramirez will be seen as god of war Ares in "Wrath of the Titans."

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who teamed up in the 2009 Oscar-winning film "The Hurt Locker," had been working on a film about the hunt for bin Laden when the al-Qaida leader was killed in May. Boal has reworked the script to reflect those developments, the publication reported.

quotes Before the bin Laden raid Who besides some in the Military had even Heard of SEAL Team... Read more
quotes So,...Our good buddies the Pakastani's arrested people who allegedly assisted the CIA... Read more
quotes Everything this president does is orchestrated by political calculation. Read more

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WASHINGTON — Until it achieved its objective, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden was one of the best-kept secrets in the history of Washington. Whether the Obama administration later went too far in spilling secrets about the operation to Hollywood is getting a look.

Newly released letters from the Pentagon and the CIA indicate they will examine their cooperation with Sony Pictures Entertainment and director Kathryn Bigelow on a forthcoming bin Laden film.

At issue is whether the filmmakers — Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who both won Oscars for their 2009 Iraq war movie, "The Hurt Locker" — 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.

The planned film has potential political implications. Sony moved its release date into 2013 amid concerns that the original October 2012 release could boost Obama's prospects one month before the presidential election. The bin Laden raid is widely viewed as a political plus for Obama, who sent Navy SEALs to kill the al-Qaida leader at his Pakistan compound even though the CIA could not say with certainty he was there.

The Pentagon and CIA letters were sent to Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, in response to his calls for an investigation into whether the Obama administration had given filmmakers "top-level access to the most classified mission in history."

King's interest was aroused last summer, when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that "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."

Boal, Dowd wrote, "got welcomed to the upper echelons of the White House and the Pentagon and showed up recently — to the surprise of some military officers — at a CIA ceremony celebrating the hero SEALs."

When King first raised the issue in August, administration officials scoffed, noting the White House and other federal agencies routinely work with authors, filmmakers and others to ensure they have access to accurate information. A National Security Council spokesman called King's claims "ridiculous."

Months later, the Pentagon, at least, is being a little less dismissive. "We plan to begin subject investigation immediately," Patricia Brannin, the Pentagon's deputy inspector general for intelligence and special-program assessments, wrote in a memo that King emailed to reporters.

The CIA offered no indication that it would investigate the matter formally but said its public-affairs office was "developing a written policy to create a single point of reference" to guide the agency on its interactions with filmmakers. The letter was signed by Patricia Lewis, deputy inspector general.

Late Thursday, CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood added: "... The agency has over the years engaged with writers, documentary filmmakers, movie and TV producers, and others in the entertainment industry."

"Our goal is an accurate portrayal of the men and women of the CIA, their vital mission and the commitment to public service that defines them," she said.

King has said leaks of classified information related to the bin Laden raid had resulted in the arrests of Pakistanis believed by Pakistani authorities to have assisted the CIA.

He has sought information on talks involving administration, Pentagon and CIA officials about providing Hollywood executives with access to covert-military operators and asked whether the film would be submitted to the military and the CIA for prepublication review.

Compiled from The Washington Post, the Tribune Washington bureau and The Associated Press

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