CIA chief spilled secret details to film-makers, says report

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A Pentagon investigation has found ex-CIA director Leon Panetta spilled some secret details to a Hollywood screenwriter behind the film Zero Dark Thirty, a watchdog group reported.

The findings of the Pentagon's inspector general are contained in a draft report that has not been publicly released but was obtained by the independent watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), on Wednesday.

The probe throws a potentially embarrassing light on President Barack Obama's administration, suggesting the White House was keen to help filmmakers tell a flattering story even as it aggressively investigated government officials and journalists over possible leaks of sensitive information.

The Pentagon inspector general's report appears to have been completed months ago but the release has been repeatedly delayed, raising concerns the timing has been subject to political considerations, POGO said, quoting an unnamed official inside the inspector general's office.

The inspector general (IG) found that Mr Panetta, then CIA director, had disclosed the "top secret" information two years ago at a ceremony at the spy agency's headquarters honouring those who took part in the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, according to the draft report posted online by POGO.

The event was attended by a "Hollywood executive" and screenwriter Mark Boal, who was working on the movie "Zero Dark Thirty," which recounts the Osama manhunt, it said.

"During this awards ceremony, Director Panetta specifically recognised the unit that conducted the raid and identified the ground commander by name," the draft IG report said.

"According to the DoD (Department of Defence) Office of Security Review, the individual's name is protected from public release - under federal law."

The inspector general report adds: "Director Panetta also provided DoD information, identified by relevant Original Classification Authorities as TOP SECRET..."

The probe had been requested by the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King of New York, who was concerned the administration may have revealed classified information and secret tactics to Hollywood filmmakers.

Mr Panetta worked as CIA director from 2009 to mid-2011 and then as defence secretary until stepping down in February of this year.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the POGO article.

It was unclear why the Pentagon inspector general's office, which is supposed to hold the Defence Department accountable, has not released its findings on the cooperation given the filmmakers, according to POGO.

The inspector general's office said it was working to finish the report but declined to comment further.

"While we do not have a projected date of completion for the referenced report, we are working diligently to complete the project as quickly as possible," the inspector general office's spokeswoman, Bridget Ann Serchak, said in an email.

However, POGO quoted an unnamed official inside the inspector general's office expressing dismay over alleged foot-dragging on the release of the findings.

"There is a version ready to hit the street, been long time ready to hit the street - but we will see if that happens anytime soon," the official says in an email to a congressional aide, according to POGO.

"Highly unusual tight controls and tactical involvement from senior leadership on this project," the official wrote.