WASHINGTON — U.S. special operations forces who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden were in uniform and wearing nametags during a CIA award ceremony attended by the writer of the film “Zero Dark Thirty,” a Pentagon inspector general’s report said Friday.
The report, however, omits a number of revelations disclosed in an early draft that was made public more than a week ago, including that then-CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the raid commander during his speech at the agency’s June 2011 event.
It also no longer includes revelations that the Pentagon’s top intelligence official, Michael Vickers, divulged the name of an individual involved in the bin Laden raid to the filmmakers.
The report was triggered by questions from a congressional lawmaker about whether U.S. officials leaked classified information to the filmmakers and whether they compromised military tactics and procedures. But, in contrast to the draft, the final report focuses exclusively on questions of Pentagon involvement in the matter, and refers other concerns to investigators at other federal agencies – likely a reference to the CIA – and additional reviews by the Pentagon inspector general.
The IG report concludes that it did not identify any instances when sensitive special operations tactics or techniques were provided to filmmakers. But it also found that commandos involved in the raid were readily identifiable during the CIA ceremony.
“We were unable to identify any precautionary measures that were taken to protect the identity of operators that attended this event,” the report said. It added that, according to a commander at the event, the commandos “were in the front row, front, left side, prominently on display for everybody.”
The report found that although a CIA employee told a Pentagon staff member several days before the event that the film’s screenwriter, Mark Boal, could attend, the CIA hoped to prevent him from being there. When, on the day of the event, it turned out that Boal was able to attend, that information never got to Adm. William McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, or any other troops at the ceremony.
McRaven told the IG that at the end of the ceremony he was introduced to Boal, and “I was admittedly a little surprised.” Another military commander, who was not identified by the report, said McRaven was visibly shocked, and that the military forces at the event tried to stay away from Boal.
The final version of the report, however, was far less expansive that the unpublished draft report, which was first disclosed by the Project on Government Oversight and confirmed by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who asked for the investigation nearly two years ago.
It did not accuse Panetta of wrongdoing. But the draft cited two instances when administration officials divulged the names of individuals involved in the bin Laden operation to the filmmakers. The Oscar-winning movie told the story of the decade-long hunt for the al-Qaida leader and the dark-of-night Navy SEALs raid in which he was killed.
The first instance was a July 15, 2011, interview of Vickers by Boal and the film’s director, Kathryn Bigelow. In that session Vickers gave them the name of a special operations planner whose identity was supposed to be protected from public release, the report draft said.
The second instance was the ceremony at CIA headquarters in which Panetta identified the ground commander of the SEALs raid, with Boal in the audience. The draft report did not say whether Panetta knew Boal was present. But a former agency official, who was present at the ceremony, has said that Panetta did not know Boal was there and assumed that everyone in the audience of at least several hundred people had proper security clearances. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because a security matter was involved and the official wasn’t authorized to be identified.
The draft report said the ground commander’s name was supposed to be protected from public release, under federal law. Although the name was mentioned in Boal’s presence, Boal did not subsequently use the name in any public manner. The draft also said without further explanation that Panetta “also provided (Defense Department) information identified by original classification authorities as top secret.”
The final report released Friday talked at length about emails and conversations between defense officials about allowing a special operations planner speak on background with the filmmakers – without using his name – but that a meeting never actually happened.