(WASHINGTON) — A federal judge ruled the names of the CIA agents and Navy SEAL given to Zero Dark Thirty filmmakers should not be released to a government watchdog organization because they are not publicly known, the opinion said.
Judicial Watch, Inc., filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency, claiming the government unfairly withheld the names of four CIA Agents and one Navy SEAL from documents that detailed communications between governmental agencies and the filmmakers behind Zero Dark Thirty, according to court documents.
The non-partisan educational foundation initially filed a Freedom of Information Act request to gain access to recorded conversations the CIA and the Defense Department had with the film’s director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal in August 2011, court documents said.
While the organization was given access to the communications that took place between the filmmakers, the Defense Department and the CIA, the names of officials Bigelow and Boal were given had been redacted to protect their identities, the opinion said. These officers were directly involved in orchestrating the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, which is the focus of the film.
But Judicial Watch felt that if the names had been given to private citizens like Bigelow and Boal, they should be available to anyone who requests them, their attorney said.
“We got a number of emails and transcripts about information shared with the filmmakers, but they didn’t give us all the information they shared. They withheld some of the information — particularly the names of officials that they didn’t want to give to us,” Judicial Watch attorney Christopher Fedeli told ABCNews.com. “Anything shared with the filmmakers should be shared with the public.”
The group filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in January 2012, according to court documents.
The judge wrote in the opinion given on Wednesday that while Judicial Watch claimed the names redacted from the communications were in the public domain, the organization failed to highlight “specific information in the public domain that duplicates that being withheld.”
“In short, Judicial Watch does not know — and outside of this suit, apparently has no way of learning — the names of these individuals,” the judge wrote. “The fact is strong evidence that those names are not in the public domain.”
In light of the ruling, Judicial Watch is considering an appeal on the grounds that “any argument that the government has not put this information into the public domain is dubious,” Fedeli said.
“This was selective sharing of sensitive government information for the sake of assisting a private film production. We know the names were disclosed to civilians, and it appears with no more security measures than an oral request not to repeat them,” he said.
Fedeli said he did not believe Bigelow and Boal had been involved in the lawsuit at any point in time.
An attorney for the U.S. Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
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