Vote Looming, National Geographic to Exhibit Dubious, Politicized bin Laden Raid Narrative

WASHINGTON – The trailer for an upcoming film on the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden inaccurately represents tactics and techniques, thereby overstating pre-operational uncertainty regarding the terrorist leader’s hideout presence. While producing “Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden,” which National Geographic plans to air in the 48 hours before Election Day, Kathryn Bigelow consulted with senior White House, Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency officials.


On its YouTube channel below the video, National Geographic writes, “Don’t miss the World Premiere of National Geographic Channel’s very first feature-length film inspired by true events.”

To synopsize the trailer, as two men surveil from an adjacent structure the Abbottabad, Pakistan compound using conventional photography, actor William Fichtner — his character, “Guidry,” briefing seated intelligence analysts — relates that an al-Qaida courier has identified the location of a “suspected” high-value target.

As the trailer flashes to distant, blurry image from an unmanned aerial vehicle of an individual’s far-away profile, Guidry says that analysts have recognized “a man who appears taller than the rest.” A brief flash at 30 seconds — and again later in the trailer — shows aerial imagery, emphasizing the distance at which the CIA supposedly had to observe the target.

Then, a still shot of President Barack Obama and a voice-over together communicate that the president is staking his re-election on “this call.”

At 1:30, an authority, presumably a military official, asks, “So you’re still not sure if the target’s in there? You’re still not 100 percent?” To this Guidry replies, “A hundred percent’s hard to come by these days.”

John Young of Cryptome.org on August 6, 2011 pointed out problems with these types of hyped uncertainty claims as to bin Laden’s presence in the Abbottabad compound.

With emphasis added, most of note in relationship to this trailer are:

1. “A British newpaper Independent got the drawings shortly after the raid (a third floor added later). These detailed plans show the underground septic system for the house, a favorite means of gathering DNA and other evidence of occupants, as well as running sensors up the waste lines.”

2. “2. CIA has a slew of sensors to establish who occupies a structure, where they are located, what they talk about, when they eat and sleep. Sensors that read signals of window panes from distance, sensors down plumbing ventilation piping, sensors attached to plumbing and electrical systems, sensors attached to reinforcing bars sticking out of the top of the bin Laden House, sensors on drones and in nearby structures and heaved over and buried in the walls and dropped on the roof. Sensors in food supplies and medicines and clothing and vehicles. Tunnels under the house, piece of cake, water table not a barrier. Remote capture of emanations from electronic devices and video displays.”

3. “Not true that drones, [satellites] and ground-based cameras could not photograph bin Laden sufficiently to identify him” — emphasizing the proximity and size of the hill overlooking the walled terrace. The hill also overlooks the closed-in balcony on the third floor.

Hill Overlooking Walled Terrace via Cryptome 1024x728 Vote Looming, National Geographic to Exhibit Dubious, Politicized bin Laden Raid Narrative

Hill Overlooking Walled Terrace, via Cryptome: Imagery of the distance and consequent operational uncertainty implied in the National Geographic trailer mislead.

Following up on Freedom of Information Act requests, in May Judicial Watch detailed the level of White House-facilitated Defense Department and CIA briefing given to the creators of “Zero Dark Thirty,” a topical Sony Pictures film Ms. Bigelow was producing simultaneously, including her meeting with the CIA.

In one of the emails Commander Bob Mehal, a communications adviser to the intelligence undersecretary of defense, reports to Defense Department Public Affairs, that “Zero Dark Thirty’s” writer, Mark Boal, had made overtures to DOD by saying that Mr. Boal was not interested in disclosing techniques, tactics and procedures, and that Mr. Boal “indicated that he was proud of not giving anything away in” the Bigelow-directed “The Hurt Locker.” Commander Mehal related that “USDI” — rather, he speaking for the Office of Defense Intelligence Undersecretary Michael Vickers — told the “Hurt Locker” writer that the bin Laden operation involved a “60-80% of certainty based on the Intell [sic]” and constituted a “‘gutsy decision’ by the [president],” adding that White House “involvement was critical.”

In reference to the larger-screen account of Operation Neptune Spear, “Zero Dark Thirty,” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in August 2011 that the White House was “counting on the Kathryn Bigelow . . . version of the killing of Bin Laden to counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual,” adding that Ms. Bigelow’s production would “no doubt reflect the president’s cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds.”

In response to complaints of “Seal Team Six’s” politicization of events, National Geographic released a statement:

SEAL TEAM SIX is a film that will provide our viewers with the first full length dramatization detailing one of the war on terrorism’s most crucial and historic events. It also showcases the extraordinary bravery and resourcefulness of the United States military and national security teams. The National Geographic Channel has no political agenda, and believes that audiences can and will judge projects of this type on their own merits. National Geographic Channel also has a reputation of getting inside access, and bringing big events to our viewers first — for instance, we were the first and only network to have an exclusive with George W. Bush for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 (our highest rated show last year). SEAL TEAM SIX is a drama inspired by the real events of how the U.S. finally found Osama bin Laden in the network’s first feature film and scripted project marking the continued expansion of our programming. [emphases added]

OpenSecrets.org, a database maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics, accounts that Ms. Bigelow donated $200 to President Obama’s re-election effort in November 2011. “Seal Team Six” Director John Stockwell donated $250 to the campaign August 23. Those are the creators’ only known direct-to-candidate political contributions for the 2012 cycle.

Xzibit of Meme Fame Plays Mule in Seal Team Six1 Vote Looming, National Geographic to Exhibit Dubious, Politicized bin Laden Raid Narrative

Xzibit, of Meme Fame, to Portray “Mule” in “Seal Team Six”

7 comments to Vote Looming, National Geographic to Exhibit Dubious, Politicized bin Laden Raid Narrative

  • ravada

    There’s nothing wrong with a little pro-America propaganda now & then. What’s wrong is that it will inevitably become fuel for the partisan fire.

    This sort of film is a particularly laughable example of the 4th branch flexing it’s muscle. Despite the overwhelming deadweight they carry, they do a damn fine job.

  • Hollywood sure loves them some War Democrats.

    • I don’t know how I found my way here, but now I don’t want to leave.

      Several thoughts to share: I don’t think the collective We needs additional re-hashing, by National Geographic or otherwise, of May 2011 in Abbottabad. I’m not the only one: Video preview only has 101,000 views so far.

      I don’t know anything about John Young. He makes some good points. But he and perhaps his minions, (I hope he has a few, to share the workload) churn out such a high volume of, well, content at Cryptome that he misses basic fact checking sometimes. He’s right, and so are you all (whomsoever y’all are), about the deceptive portrayal of uncertainty regarding identification of the inhabitants of “the compound”. It is just silly to claim that there was uncertainty, and it instills doubt and lack of faith in Nat’l Geo and the powers-that-be to suggest it. Here’s why: Recall the (female Pakistani) World Health Organization workers who knew something was strange because they weren’t allowed to give polio vaccines to the children who lived in the house? Also, recall mainstream media reporting that Bin Laden was diabetic and maybe even needed periodic dialysis? It isn’t easy to keep that a secret, anywhere. There was a $1,000,000 reward issued by the U.S. government, way back in 2003 or so for information directly leading to capture of Bin Laden. I seriously doubt that despite the incentive of such a reward, and other circumstances I just mentioned, that no one, including the CIA, could find Bin Laden over the span of 10 years!

      Cryptome usually leaves me feeling more confused, rather than less. It’s hard to tell what is investigative versus what is supposedly revelations of attempts to obscure the truth by powerful and malignant authorities. Those huge photos of Abbottabad on Cryptome nearly crashed my browser. I found it more than slightly amusing that the only part of Pakistan that the volunteer citizen mappers of Google Maps (I am one of them, though only of areas that are nearby, not Pakistan) have scrupulously mapped is Bin Laden’s compound. The rest of the country receives nearly zero attention.

      Okay, here’s my bone to pick with Cryptome. In the Schmidle backstory, John sez that someone else sez that:

      If its [Pakistan's] leadership was to choose between inability to defend national borders and complicity with the US to hunt down one person who defied the mightiest of the worldly powers, it would rather concede incompetence.

      Isn’t this negated by the fact that Pakistan accepts at least $3 billion from the U.S.A. annually? Acceptance of aid money of that amount, year after year is complicity with the U.S.A. already, no? The foreign aid is no secret! It is documented ad nauseum, just like all the records on the CIA website in huge PDF’s that no one bothers to read, would rather allege as murky conspiracy and evilness.

      Cryptome did find a truly frightening photo of Schmidle to post. I’ve never seen such a strong resemblance to Herzog’s 1930′s film noir production of Nosferatu in a living person than this:
      pict5.jpg
      Sorry if it appears rather LARGE.
      Please don’t IP ban me, not yet, okay?

      • The money USA gives to Pakistan is for “huntin’ terrorists.” If Pakistan says they can’t find me no terrorists, but there is obvious evidence of terrorist activity, that is all the justification the US State Dept needs to keep sending money.

        To say that Pakistan taking US money implies complicity is like saying the US government complies with our constitutional protections FROM government abuse just because we pay out taxes to them. We’re giving them money and being told they’re actually using it the way we intended, but everybody knows better.

        And yes, America has passed up several opportunities to kill bin Laden. I would even go so far as to say that when “we finally got him,” it was too little, too late. People are jaded, man.