9/11 defendants ask for Zero Dark Thirty court screening

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The five alleged 9/11 plotters should be allowed the same access to classified information as the makers of the 2012 hit film Zero Dark Thirty, a US military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay was to hear this week.

In a series of pre-trial hearings from Monday, Dec 16, 2013, the tribunal was to consider the request made in July by defence attorney James Connell, who asked that 20 minutes of the film be aired in court.

"At this point, we just want to get the same items they gave to Hollywood," Mr Connell - who represents Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, also known as Ammar al-Baluchi - told Agence France-Presse. Ali's co-defendants support the request.

Ali - the nephew of the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed - is accused of helping organise logistics for the airplane strikes on New York and Washington.

Zero Dark Thirty features a character closely resembling Ali, who is identified as a detainee subjected to torture in a secret Central Intelligence Agency prison.

The 20 minutes of the film at issue show a prisoner named Ammar being subjected to simulated drowning, being locked naked in a coffin and stripped and tied with a dog collar in a secret Central Intelligence Agency prison.

Ali's lawyers claim the CIA must have given the film's director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal more information about Ali's detention than they were, and that they deserve access to that information.

The organisation Judicial Watch accused the Obama administration of giving the Hollywood filmmakers "unusual access to classified intelligence information, including the names of CIA operatives involved" in the May 2011 raid to kill Osama bin Laden.

Mr Connell told Agence France-Presse he had provided a DVD of the segment of the film he would like the court to see, but was not sure his request would be granted.

He claims prosecutors have given him no information about Ali's arrest, detention or interrogation, but that "documents show" the CIA gave that information to the filmmakers.

The issue is one of several to be taken up this week at the military tribunal.

Monday's hearing was held behind closed doors but other hearings are to be broadcast on a closed-circuit feed to journalists at Fort Meade, outside Washington.