Could Disclosure of Classified Info DQ Pentagon Intel Chief in CIA Director Race?

Could Pentagon intel czar Michael Vickers be the next CIA director? Or will a potential federal probe into his alleged disclosure of classified data disqualify him? (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Could a little too much cooperation (allegedly) with filmmakers torpedo a senior Pentagon official’s nomination to become the first CIA chief in the post-David Petraeus era?

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says he is “quite troubled” by the possibility of a federal probe into the possible disclosure of classified information by the Pentagon’s intelligence chief, Michael Vickers.

The Pentagon’s inspector general has referred allegations that Vickers, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, allegedly disclosed the name of a U.S. covert operative highly instrumental in the mission that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to movie producers.

The move could put in jeopardy what Washington insiders say is the Obama administration’s interest in tapping the widely regarded Vickers to become the next CIA director.

At issue is whether Vickers provided the name of the covert operative to the makers of the coming film “Zero Dark Thirty,” which chronicles the hunt for and raid that eliminated bin Laden. The Pentagon IG’s referral comes months after congressional Republicans have slammed the Obama administration for cooperating too closely with filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal.

“The news that the DoD Inspector General has referred an aspect of its investigation to [Justice] for possible criminal prosecution is quite troubling,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said in a Dec. 18 statement. “I requested this investigation in August 2011 to ensure that our national security was not placed at risk by the Obama Administration leaking potentially classified information about the bin Laden raid to [the] filmmakers.

“Our national security and the personal security of special operators and the CIA Officers involved was, and remains, my only concern,” King said, though some Democrats have charged GOP members with playing politics over the matter.

“This reported referral by the DoD Inspector General is an indication that our security and theirs was, indeed, placed at risk by people who wanted to help Hollywood make a movie.

The Pentagon is proceeding gingerly about the matter, with quotes from a “defense official” denying Vickers is guilty of any wrongdoing appearing in several media reports.

Vickers was deemed the fifth-most influential official in the U.S. defense and national security realm by Defense News in its first “100 Most Influential People” rankings.

“As a CIA paramilitary operations officer, he was instrumental in arming Afghanistan’s mujahedeen against occupying Soviet forces in the 1980s and, more recently, he has been a critical player in forging closer ties between the Pentagon and the CIA,” states a brief profile of the Pentagon policy chief included with the rankings. “Vickers’ tenure at the Pentagon straddles the Bush and Obama administrations. He was appointed assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict in 2007 and promoted to his current post in charge of defense intelligence activities in 2010.”

Here’s the full Vickers profile.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett