White House rejects claim about bin Laden raid film

WASHINGTON Thu Aug 11, 2011 9:20am EDT

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. REUTERS/White House/Pete Souza

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/White House/Pete Souza

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Moviemakers producing a film about the U.S. special forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden are getting help from the Pentagon, but the Obama administration dismissed concerns on Wednesday that classified information has been divulged.

The film, focusing on one of President Barack Obama's key successes in office, is due to be released in October 2012, less than a month before the election in which the Democrat is seeking a second term.

Republican Peter King, chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, called on Tuesday for an investigation into contacts between the administration and the filmmakers. King questioned whether special operations methods had been compromised.

"The claims are ridiculous," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a White House briefing.

"We do not discuss classified information. And I would hope that as we face the continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie," Carney added.

U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Defense Department is cooperating with filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal as they work on a motion picture about the raid that killed bin Laden.

The two, who collaborated on the Oscar-winning Iraq war movie "The Hurt Locker," had been developing the bin Laden film even before the al Qaeda leader was killed in May in a raid on a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

In a statement, the pair said their movie covered a period of three different U.S. administrations that searched for bin Laden, including those of Presidents Clinton and Bush.

"This was an American triumph, both heroic and non-partisan, and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise," Bigelow and Boal said in their joint statement.

The Pentagon has a two-person entertainment media office that assists makers of films, television shows, computer games and other entertainment media targeting mass audiences.

"Mostly when we're contacted by filmmakers they're looking for access to our equipment, our personnel and our installations. Technical advice is kind of a byproduct of that relationship," said Phil Strub, who heads the office.

Reacting to a New York Times column saying the film was timed to give Obama a "home-stretch boost" in his re-election bid, King called for an investigation into the assertion that Bigelow had been given "top-level access to the most classified mission in history."

On the Bigelow film, Lapan said the Defense Department is "providing assistance with script research, which is something we commonly do for established filmmakers." Lapan said the Pentagon attempts to help filmmakers and authors but "we do not discuss classified information."

Carney said information provided to the filmmakers "has been focused on the president's role."

"There is no difference in the information that we've given to anybody who's 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," Carney told reporters.

(Editing by Will Dunham and Eric Walsh)