Peter King queries Bin Laden film White House access

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Mr Obama and other administration officials monitored the secret raid from the White House
Image caption,
The film's climax? Mr Obama monitored the top secret raid in the White House situation room

A senior Republican has called for an inquiry into reports the White House fed secrets about the killing of Osama Bin Laden to Hollywood film-makers.

Peter King, chair of the House of Representatives homeland security committee, cited a report suggesting the White House hopes the film will boost President Obama's election bid.

New York Times writer Maureen Dowd said film-makers had "top-level access".

The White House called that report - and Mr King's claims - "ridiculous".

Bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader who had spent almost a decade in hiding since fleeing Afghanistan in late 2001, was killed in May in a raid into Pakistan by members of an elite Navy Seals special forces team.

The killing of the man behind the 9/11 terror attacks marked the recent high point in Mr Obama's presidency.

Since then the president has been dogged by joblessness, a sluggish economy and partisan bickering and gridlock in Washington and has seen his approval rating slip.

'Home-stretch boost'

In the aftermath of the raid, senior US military officials decried media leaks of information to the news media, saying they jeopardised future operations.

On 6 August, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that Sony Pictures had begun producing a film about the Bin Laden raid by Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, the Oscar-winning director and writer of The Hurt Locker, which portrayed a squad of US bomb-defusers in Iraq.

"The moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history," Ms Dowd wrote, adding that the film would "no doubt reflect the president's cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds".

Ms Dowd said the film was due to be released in October 2012, "perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher".

In a letter to the inspectors general of the CIA and the Department of Defense, Mr King, a New York Republican, asked officials to investigate the extent to which the White House, the CIA and Department of Defense discussed "the advisability of providing Hollywood executives with access to covert military operators and clandestine CIA officers".

He also queried whether the film would be submitted for pre-screening and what steps the Obama administration had taken to ensure no operational secrets were revealed, along with other matters.

Open access

"The administration's first duty in declassifying material is to provide full reporting to Congress and the American people, in an effort to build public trust through transparency of government," Mr King wrote.

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said suggestions the administration had provided secret information to the film-makers were "ridiculous".

He said the White House press office makes an effort to ensure that news articles, documentary films and Hollywood productions about the president are accurate, and aims to accommodate film-makers who seek interviews with White House officials.

"We do not discuss classified information," Mr Carney said.

"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."