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Podcast: The Unprecedented Collaboration Between CIA & ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Filmmakers

New documents containing details on the inspector general investigation into collaboration between the CIA and “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmakers show ethics violations and potential federal crimes by former CIA director Leon Panetta and other CIA officers were uncovered. These were referred to the Justice Department for prosecution, but the department declined to prosecute anyone.

According to a report by Jason Leopold and Ky Henderson for VICE News, it was found Panetta disclosed classified information without proper authorization. Panetta gave speech that was wrongly classified secret when it was a top secret speech. The former CIA director gave this speech at a classified awards ceremony in which “Zero Dark Thirty” screenwriter Mark Boal was in attendance, and Panetta probably did not tell the truth about his past history with Boal and the film’s director, Kathryn Bigelow.

There also were instances of bribery, which the inspector general referred to the Justice Department for investigation. CIA officers were offered gifts from Bigelow and Boal, including pearl earrings, tequila, and tickets to a Prada show.

While there have been stories published about the coordination between CIA and “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmakers, this report from Leopold and Henderson included even greater detail on how the CIA was using the filmmakers for its agenda and how the filmmakers worked the CIA to get what they wanted as well. And, it is true the CIA has influenced past movies, but never to this extent.

VICE News reporter Jason Leopold joins the show to talk about documents he obtained containing new revelations about the collaboration that went on between “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmakers and the CIA. We talk about the significance of the documents, whether former CIA director Leon Panetta lied about interactions with screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow, and how the CIA was hoping to undermine a Senate intelligence committee investigation into torture with this mass-marketed Hollywood movie on the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

In the second half of the show, hosts Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek talk about the refugee crisis in Europe, the British government’s decision to kill two British nationals with drones, a court decision in a No Fly List retaliation case brought by American Muslims against FBI agents, U.S. rejecting key human rights recommendations from countries, and James Clapper’s speech about U.S. intelligence having a lot in common with Spider-Man.

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Below are some highlights from this week’s interview with Jason Leopold:

—”[The inspector general] confronted Leon Panetta, and they confronted him over whether he knew that Mark Boal, who does not hold a security clearance, was going to attend a classified awards ceremony and whether he had advance knowledge of that. Leon Panetta said I have no idea. I would never even be able to identify Mark Boal if he was there because I’ve never met him. And the CIA inspector general found that was not true because a year earlier he had met Mark Boal, and he also met Kathryn Bigelow. He met them at the White House Correspondents Dinner because he sat at the same table with them. He told them at this dinner that if they needed any help with the CIA to give a call, and Mark Boal did.”

— “This movie, this access, this classified information that was shared with Bigelow and Boal, that happened at a time when the Senate intelligence committee was very deep into their investigation about the efficacy of the CIA’s torture program. The most controversial parts of this movie that were widely condemned pertained to the portrayal, the depiction of torture, and how that led the CIA to bin Laden.”

— “When I put this story out, the CIA put out a report that showed the changes that they made in how they deal with Hollywood. And in this report there is information about the movies they worked on; I think about seven movies just maybe over the past few years. They redacted all of the movies, including “Zero Dark Thirty,” which makes no sense considering they released it. But they redacted it.”

—”This happens to be somewhat unprecedented because it was such a highly-classified operation, and the level of detail that Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow were given, the access that they were granted was—That part was unprecedented. It’s ironic that they lost the Academy Award for Best Picture to another CIA movie called “Argo.”… The nature of the information that they were provided is unprecedented and because most of it was classified.”

— “Here you have Leon Panetta not just revealing classified information about this, but in the presence of someone who did not have a security clearance and was not cleared, [he named] all the Seals who were involved, the ground commander. I think that’s the part that also we should pay attention is, as I noted earlier, not all leaks are created equal. Or, not in the way the government pursues it. He disclosed the highly classified details. He was not forthcoming about whether or not he knew that Mark Boal was going to be there. When it came time for any sort of accountability, there was none.

We saw the same thing more or less for David Petraeus, another former CIA director, but yet when it comes to somebody like John Kiriakou – to use him as an example – he provides a name that the name of an officer that the CIA claimed was a covert officer that a journalist never printed and is aggressively prosecuted and sent to jail for a couple years. So, there is clearly a two-tiered justice system when it comes to that.”

— “This just shows that this isn’t going away. I think that the government, the Executive Branch and the White House, felt that the Senate report will come out and will turn this into a distant memory. And what we’ve seen—and I’ve been quite surprised about—is this opened up another door, this release of the Senate report, and more information is just continuing to come out. There’s this jockeying for who can own the narrative. So, this is going to remain out there for quite some time. I think that we will continue to see more information, more details to come out, more release of documents, and attorneys who represent detainees trying to get information out about them.”

For the entire interview with Jason Leopold, listen to it here.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."