The Obama administration gave its full backing to the official film version of the raid to kill Osama bin Laden in apparent attempt to give the President a pre-election boost.
Newly released documents and emails show that as far back as June last year the CIA thought ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ would be a ‘winning horse’ and gave classified briefings to director Kathryn Bigelow.
The film’s screenwriter Mark Boal also was allowed to make ‘deep dives’ into sensitive information to shape the script as intelligence officials developed a back-slapping and chummy relationship with him.
The revelation is likely to further anger the Navy SEALs who carried out the raid, some of whom are already furious with Obama for trying to claim too much credit for the assassination of the al-Qaeda leader.
In one email a senior CIA official boasted: ‘I can’t tell you how excited we all are about the project’ — and apparently vows to keep quiet about free tickets to the premiere.
The White House got in on the act as well, making it explicit it wanted to ‘have visibility’ so it could bask in the glory.
Zero Dark Thirty was originally set for release before the election in November, potentially giving President Obama an unfair boost to his popularity.
But following an outcry the release date was moved back until after the poll, even though trailers have already been released by Sony.
The new documents show discussions taking place before the row erupted and were unearthed after a Freedom of Information request by Judicial Watch, a right wing website.
It claims they should have been released months ago but were only made public now after it filed a lawsuit.
The haul includes emails between the Pentagon, the CIA, top White House officials along with Bigelow and Boal, who were behind the Oscar winning war drama ‘The Hurt Locker.’
They make clear that once Obama had decided to support the film, little would stand in the way of making sure it was a success — and that he wanted part of the action.
On June 15 last year, an email from Benjamin Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, mentions that Deputy White House Press Secretary Jaime Smith emphasised that the White House was ‘trying to have visibility into the UBL (Usama bin Laden) projects.’
Five days later Boal emailed CIA director of Public Affairs George Little thanking him for ‘pulling for him’ at the agency because it made ‘all the difference.’
Little responds: ‘I can’t tell you how excited we all are (at DOD and CIA) about the project…PS – I want you to know how good I’ve been not mentioning the premiere tickets. :)’
Other CIA colleagues were also on board — in an email on June 7 last year, CIA spokesperson Marie Harf wrote to a colleague: ‘I know we don’t pick favorites but it makes sense to get behind a winning horse…
‘…Mark and Kathryn’s movie is going to be the first and the biggest. It’s got the most money behind it, and two Oscar winners on board.’
The ‘first’ referred to the fact that it was going to come out before this year’s election.
Another internal CIA memo dated July 14 last year from Harf talks about how Boal has been doing ‘deep dives’ of information.
It reads: ‘Kathryn is not interested in doing the deep dives that Mark did; she simply wants to meet the people Mark has been talking to.’
Other emails from Pentagon Public Affairs chief Douglas Wilson show that it had given briefings to Bigelow and Boal and that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates ‘shared … admiration for their previous film efforts.’
Tommy Vietor, a National Security Council spokesman, dismissed the significance of the documents and said they just showed ‘filmmakers trying to do their homework.’