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Thursday, August 11, 2011
John F. Obama or Cecil Barack DeMille?
By  Mike Gorbell  /  August 11, 2011  /  Exclusive to California Chronicle

Political professionals will tell you that the most important things about an “October Surprise” before a November election are that it be devastating, decisive and, most importantly, a surprise. Thanks to chatty New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Sony Pictures’ plan to release a pseudo-documentary blockbuster on President Barack Obama’s successful mission to kill Al Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden on October 12, 2012 has just been, to put it in a favorite espionage term, neutralized.
 
Actually, it was Representative Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, that sounded the alarm after Dowd let slip in her Sunday column that Academy Award winning team of director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and screenwriter Mark Boat (also The Hurt Locker) had been granted “unprecedented access” to Pentagon and CIA sources who had been part of the team that hunted Bin Laden down over the past ten years. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “unprecedented access,” that’s public relations code language for the White House calling the Pentagon and CIA and ordering them to cooperate with no script review or approval for security and accuracy. Mercifully, I never received such a call during either my Marine Corps or CIA service, but I have friends who have. They’ve told me that cooperation with the media or Hollywood in such cases is not a matter of choice. Rep. King, of course, was concerned that classified identities or techniques that protect our intelligence and special operators when in harm’s way would be compromised. Given the White House’s ham-handed, on-the-fly modification of the Bin Laden operation’s cover story when one of the helicopters unexpectedly went down on the Pakistani Intelligence Service-managed Al Qaeda compound in the heart of Pakistan’s largest, most closely-knit military community, I seriously doubt that there will be any compromise of classified secrets in this film. In fact, the biggest compromise will likely be the truth of what really happened and who the real heroes were. One thing about this “cooperative” effort is for certain—the cooperation goes in only one direction, from the people who got Bin Laden to the filmmakers, Bigelow and Boat. None of the intelligence officers and special operators knew that the film wasn’t going to be released until October of next year until they learned about it over their Sunday morning coffee. And, aside from their normal shyness for publicity and credit (however much the latter may be due), a fair number of them feel betrayed by being ordered to cooperate with what increasingly looks like an Obama campaign advertisement. 
 
Their cover blown, Bigelow, Boat and Sony Pictures protested that this project had been under development since 2008 (before or after Obama’s nomination and election, I’m wondering?) and was, in Boat’s words, intended to “…focus on the men and women tasked with hunting the guy.” Well, that may have been Boat’s original intention, but Boat isn’t in charge of the film, Sony is. And Sony has made no secret of its political support of Barack Obama, even hosting a glitzy fundraiser for him when he was in Los Angeles last April. Sony claims, weakly, that the timing of the film’s release is so that it will get the best exposure for the May 2013 Academy Awards. Even Hollywood insiders who live and die by Oscar-timed movie releases aren’t buying that one.
 
I’m sure that the White House, star struck as ever, has visions of the Bigelow/Boat film—starring Will Smith as the President, perhaps?—will do for economically-challenged Barack Obama what some in Hollywood fantasized the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day did for Monica-challenged Bill Clinton. Or maybe it will even be another PT-109. Possible, but I wouldn’t bet on it. A clear path to full employment and the S&P 500 over 1400 would do far, far better for Mr. Obama’s re-election prospects. How stupid to they thing we are?        
 
Mike Gorbell is a former Marine and retired Senior Intelligence Service officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. He is currently a financial advisor and business affairs consultant on California’s Central Coast.
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