Talks Behind 'Zero Dark Thirty' Will Stay Secret
WASHINGTON (CN) - Though makers of the film "Zero Dark Thirty" were given access to the officers who helped take out Osama bin Laden, a government watchdog cannot get the same treatment, a federal judge ruled.
A few months after a team of Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011, Judicial Watch learned that the Defense Department and CIA had been communicating with director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal.
The filmmakers eventually met four CIA officers and one Navy Seal who had been involved in the planning of the Abbottobad raid. Their ensuing film, "Zero Dark Thirty," chronicles the decade-long hunt for the al-Qaida leader, culminating in his assassination by the United States. It was a critical success.
Judicial Watch demanded to see the records of the communication between the government and the filmmakers under the Freedom of Information Act in 2011.
Though the government answered that request, it redacted portions of the documents to protect the identities of the Navy Seals and CIA officers.
Judicial Watch then filed suit, arguing that the meeting put the officers' identities into the public domain.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras disagreed Wednesday and granted the government summary judgment.
Though filmmakers were told the full name of the Navy Seal, and the first names of the CIA officers, "the general public does not know the names that the organization would uncover here," Contreras wrote.
"Judicial Watch concedes that both the first names of the four CIA officers who met with the filmmakers and the full name and rank of the Navy SEAL mentioned by Under Secretary Vickers would normally be exempt from disclosure under FOIA Exemption 3, which authorizes the withholding of matters 'specifically exempted from disclosure by statute,'" Contreras added.
By sharing those names with Bigelow and Boal, the government did not release the information into the public domain, according to the ruling.
"Although it touches upon matters of considerable public concern, this case presents an exceedingly narrow question: whether a FOIA requester that knows information has been disclosed to a private party is necessarily entitled to that same disclosure. Under the law of this circuit, the answer to that question is 'No,'" Contreras wrote.