The Defense Department Inspector General’s office has been sitting on a report that former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta disclosed “TOP SECRET” information and other sensitive details at an event attended by a “Hollywood executive” working on Zero Dark Thirty, the movie about the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, according to a Project On Government Oversight (POGO) investigation published Tuesday night.
POGO obtained a copy of the unreleased report drafted by the DOD Inspector General's (IG) office and has posted it on POGO's website.
According to the report: “During this awards ceremony, [then-CIA] Director Panetta specifically recognized the unit that conducted the raid and identified the ground commander by name,” the draft report says. “According to the DoD Office of Security Review, the individual’s name is protected from public release” under federal law, the report says.
“Director Panetta also provided DoD information, identified by relevant Original Classification Authorities as TOP SECRET//SI//REL TO USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL, as well as, SECRET/ACCM,” the report says.
Panetta was not interviewed for the report, the document says. POGO’s repeated attempts to reach him or a spokesperson for him through the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, his base in California, were unsuccessful.
A spokeswoman for the IG's office said that once the report is released, if it is unclassified, it will be posted on the IG's website.
The IG report obtained by POGO lays out results of an investigation requested almost two years ago by the then-chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Peter T. King (R-N.Y.). In August 2011, he wrote that he was concerned that filmmakers had reportedly received “top level access to the most classified mission in history.” The probe was formally initiated in December 2011.
The fact that the IG’s office has not released its findings has caused consternation among the office staff, people familiar with the probe told POGO. Within the office, there was a push to make findings public as early as a year ago, sources speaking on condition of anonymity said.
Disclosures of classified information have taken center stage in Washington recently as the government has ratcheted up actions against leakers, whistleblowers, and journalists. The nation has been struggling to draw the line between truth-telling in the public interest and criminal violations of national security—a debate that runs through the newly opened trial of accused WikiLeaks tipster Bradley Manning, the imprisonment of former CIA agent John Kiriakou, and the Justice Department’s pursuit of phone and email records of reporters for the Associated Press and Fox News.
The story of the unreleased investigative report illustrates systemic problems caused by the absence of a permanent inspector general. The DOD IG's top position has been vacant since 2011; during that time, the office has been headed by an acting IG. Acting inspector generals do not have the same level of job security as permanent IGs, who are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. While acting IGs serve at the discretion of the department secretaries, permanent IGs can only be removed by the president, who must inform both houses of Congress of any decision to remove an inspector general.
To read POGO's investigation and the unpublished DOD Inspector General report, go here.