WASHINGTON (AFP) – A US judge has refused to allow the public release of information divulged by the CIA to the producers of the film “Zero Dark Thirty,” a judicial source told AFP on Wednesday.
The Hollywood movie about the hunt for 9/11 mastermind terrorist Obama bin Laden relied on information disclosed to its director Katherine Bigelow and the movie’s screenwriter Mark Boal by the US Central Intelligence Agency.
The names of key figures involved in the planning of the top secret mission were sought by the non-governmental group Judicial Watch, which had argued in a court filing that since they had been revealed by US intelligence, they no longer could be classified as secret.
Judicial Watch in its suit in US District Court criticized the Barack Obama administration, which it said “gave the Hollywood filmmakers unusual access to classified intelligence information, including the names of CIA operatives involved in the Bin Laden raid.”
US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras, however, dismissed the petition in an August 28 ruling which found that names of four CIA officials and a member of the Navy Seal team involved in planning the raid were not included in the movie, and therefore could remain secret.
“In short, Judicial Watch does not know — and outside of this suit, apparently has no way of learning — the names of these individuals,” Contreras said in his ruling.
“That fact is strong evidence that those names are not in the public domain.”
The US Justice Department had argued that making the names public would create an “unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk.”
Contreras issued his decision as defendants accused in the September 11, 2001 attacks await a military ruling in a similar request, expected in a hearing later this month at the Guantanamo Bay military base.
James Connell, an attorney for one of the defendants — Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, also known as Ammar al-Baluchi — is seeking to learn as much as the Hollywood directors got in preparation of the movie.
“The ruling that the CIA is able to hide information from the public about Zero Dark Thirty does not mean that the prosecution can hide the same information from Mr al-Baluchi’s lawyers,” said Connell, whose Pakistani client is identified in the movie as the prisoner subjected to torture in a secret CIA prison.
Al-Baluchi’s uncle, alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, also is to be tried at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The other defendants are Mustapha al-Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia and Yemenis Ramzi Binalshibh and Walid bin Attash.
The five face the death penalty if convicted for their roles in the 2001 attacks by Al-Qaeda militants in which hijacked planes were used to strike New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 2,976 people.
The defendants have been held at the US “war on terror” detention center since 2006.