Panetta role in divulging classified info to film maker scrubbed from final report
A final report on the Pentagon's contacts with Hollywood on the film "Zero Dark Thirty" has been scrubbed to cover up the fact that former defense secretary Leon Panetta was responsible for serious leaks about the Bin Laden raid to the film's screenwriter.
An earlier draft of the report leaked last week contained the allegations.
Bridget Ann Serchak, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon's inspector general, said issues related to Panetta were referred to the CIA's IG.
"As with any IG work product, the working draft was edited and revised during a rigorous internal review process," Serchak said in a statement to POLITICO. "No third parties, to include anyone from the Office of the Secretary of Defense or the Executive Office of the President, attempted to influence the content of the report or its release date."
The final version of the IG's report references the CIA event but omits a paragraph in the draft version that said Panetta "specifically recognized the unit that conducted the [Osama bin Laden] raid and identified the ground commander by name." That information was protected from public release, according to the draft report, and amounted to divulging a secret.
A source close to Panetta told POLITICO last week that the former Defense secretary was unaware anyone without a security clearance had attended the CIA event. "He has no idea who all is in the audience," said the source, who asked not to be identified. "He was told everyone got the requisite clearances."
Still, the omission is raising some eyebrows.
"There appear to be mitigating circumstances regarding Mr. Panetta, but does that justify omitting any reference to the apparent disclosure of highly classified material?" said Adam Zagorin, co-author of a POGO article last week on the draft report. "I would just note the fact that it isn't there and the reason for it not being there is not really explained."
The final report released Friday also makes clear there was resistance within the Pentagon to providing access to the makers of "Zero Dark Thirty." Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal did not formally request the Defense Department's support for the film but did meet with military officials as part of their research.
The report quotes "DoD's director of entertainment media" -- Philip Strub -- as saying he wasn't eager to deal with the two filmmakers because of their portrayal of the military in a previous film, "The Hurt Locker," but was overruled by higher-ups.
"I wasn't given the choice of whether to authorize it or not," he said, according to the final report. "I mean, these senior people do whatever they want."
It was no secret that the White House was eager to give Bigelow all the cooperation they could. They wanted a pro-Obama movie and got it. And the military obliged their commander in chief by extending extraordinary assistance - including allowing the screenwriter to attend a classified event.
By scrubbing the reference to Panetta the report also doesn't mention who gave the Hollywood types clearance to attend the event. It may have come from the highest levels of the Pentagon. If so, heads should roll - but won't.