Leon Panetta
Leon Panetta (Reuters)

Former CIA director Leon Panetta unwittingly revealed classified information to Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal and said he was happy that "Bin Laden swims with the fishes".

Panetta was forced to make a statement that he did not know that Boal was in the room during an awards ceremony at the secret service headquarters to celebrate the raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan.

"I had no idea that individual was in the audience," Panetta said. "To this day, I wouldn't know him if he walked into the room."

The disclosure came after conservative group Judicial Watch obtained 200 pages of declassified documents by the CIA. A transcript of Panetta's speech, labelled "top secret", has been heavily redacted by the agency.

At the end of his speech Panetta said: "You have made me very proud of the CIA family. And you have made me proud as an Italian to know that bin Laden swims with the fishes." The quote was lifted from The Godfather movie.

Leon Panetta speech
Transcript of Panetta speech (judicialwatch.org)

Panetta was born in Monterey, California, to Italian immigrant parents from Calabria.

During his speech, Panetta disclosed the name of the ground commander of the unit that carried out the raid in which bin Laden was killed.

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said that the agency had "overhauled its procedures for interaction with the entertainment industry after an extensive internal review".

The former CIA director is not new to Godfather jokes.

While defence secretary in March 2012 he told the 127<sup>th Gridiron Dinner that unlike his predecessors Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld, he could sit at the negotiating table and say: "I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse" - a reference to another famous Godfather line.

The relationship between the CIA and Kathryn Bigelow's film about the hunt for and killing of Osama bin Laden has been troubled. A declassified memo obtained by Gawker under a Freedom of Information Act request showed that the agency put pressure on the authors to remove two scenes that contained controversial enhanced interrogation techniques from the film.

After the release of the film, former FBI agent Ali Soufan exclusively told IBTimes UK that the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture in the decade-long hunt for the al-Qaida leader was a mere Hollywood fiction.

Known as the man who nearly foiled the 9/11 plot, Soufan maintained that the movie was "entertaining" and not a documentary-like portrayal of what really happened.