Will the White House Target Leon Panetta for Leaks?
Policy + Politics

Will the White House Target Leon Panetta for Leaks?


Watch out Leon Panetta. Eric Holder could have you in his crosshairs.

Former defense chief Panetta revealed top secret classified information during a speech honoring those who participated in the May 2011 raid to kill Osama bin Laden, according to a report by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO). Mark Boal, screenwriter for Zero Dark Thirty, the film that documents the hunt for bin Laden, attended.

An unreleased report conducted by the Pentagon’s Inspector General and obtained by POGO found that Panetta revealed classified information related to the raid.

"During this awards ceremony, 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."

According to the report, Panetta did not know Boal, a former journalist, was in the audience. The former defense secretary believed everyone in attendance had top security clearance.

Boal shared details of the ceremony with his filmmaking partner, Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, and they incorporated them into the film. Zero Dark Thirty was widely praised and was nominated for best picture at the 2012 Academy Awards, but drew criticism for its depictions of torture and the recreation of events that were top secret.

Before the movie was released, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) called for an investigation into leaks to Boal and Bigelow, demanding to know how they received "top level access to the most classified mission in history.”  The IG’s investigation is a result of King’s request.

The Pentagon’s IG would not say why the report had not been released. “The report is not yet completed,” Bridget Ann Serchak, a spokeswoman for the Inspector General’s office told POGO. “Once it is released, if it is unclassified, it will be posted on our Listserv and in our newsletter as well as on our website.”

The timing of the report could not be worse for the Obama administration. Bradley Manning, the solider that supplied classified information to Wikileaks, is currently being prosecuted for his actions. The Justice Department has targeted journalists at Fox News and AP in an effort to determine who leaked them information. And former CIA agent John Kiriakou is now in jail for revealing the names of fellow officers.

It’s highly unlikely that the White House would target someone as high up as Panetta. It’s one thing to go after the small fish like Manning and Kiriakou. Taking on Panetta would mean taking on the Washington establishment.

But perhaps Panetta could use some advice from James Gandolfini, the actor who played him in Zero Dark Thirty. Gandolfini is most famous for playing mob boss Tony Soprano. And as any gangster knows, the fish with its mouth closed never gets caught.