Peter King Trades Barbs with White House Over Bin Laden Movie; ‘I Must Have Hit a Really Sensitive Nerve’

Aug 10, 2011 Issues: Killing of Osama bin Laden

New York Observer – by Reid Pillifant 

The White House offered an aggressive response to today’s letter from Homeland Security Chairman Peter King — based on a New York Times column by Maureen Dowd — which called for an investigation into whether the administration had provided special access to two filmmakers making a movie about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

“First of all, the claims are ridiculous,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said this afternoon, according to a transcript. Carney characterized the administration’s cooperation generally as trying to make sure facts are correct, and called it “hardly a novel approach to the media.”

King’s letter quoted from Dowd’s column, which reported that Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal “are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history” in order to make a feature film about the bin Laden mission, and that the White House is “counting” on their account to “to counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual.”

In his letter requesting a Defense Department and C.I.A. investigation, King questioned whether that kind of access might expose classified information and endanger future missions.

“We do not discuss classified information,” Carney said in response. “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.

“There is no difference in the information that we’ve given to anybody who is working on this topic from what we gave to those of you in this room who worked on it in the days and weeks after the raid itself.  In fact, the most specific information we’ve given from this White House about the actual raid I read to you from this podium.  So it’s simply false.”

In a phone call this afternoon, King said the White House response was “wrong.”

“I must have hit a really sensitive nerve with this thing,” he told me. “The fact is for 90 days, that’s all they’ve been doing. There’s been sensitive classified information being leaked out since the beginning.”

He cited a number of stories that revealed classified information about the mission: that the operation was executed by Navy Seal Team Six, the attempts to collect bin Laden’s D.N.A., the retrieval of helicopter parts, and the recent New Yorker account detailing the operation. King said he has been encouraged in his inquiry by friends in the intelligence committee, though he currently has no plans to call a Homeland Security hearing on the matter.

Dowd said in an email that she had no response to Carney’s comments.