NEW YORK (Reuters) - A filmmaker and political activist from California has sued the New York City Police Department for access to photos it took in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.
The Pen — which the activist said on Tuesday was his legal name — wants the photos for a film he is producing called “The Last War Crime,” which includes a recreation of the events on September 11.
The film, according to a promotional website, attempts to depict what would have happened if former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney had been indicted for authorizing harsh interrogation techniques after the attacks that critics said amounted to torture in violation of U.S. and international law.
Within the Bush administration, Cheney was one of the staunchest advocates of so-called “enhanced” interrogations of terror suspects, such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation. He has said he had no regrets about his stance on such tactics.
Assistant Deputy Commissioner Thomas Doepfner declined The Pen’s request for permission to use the photos, writing in a letter that granting the request could be seen as an endorsement by the department of the “content and message of the film.”
The photos — taken from a police helicopter after all other air traffic had been cleared from the skies above lower Manhattan — depict the towers’ collapse after they were deliberately struck by two hijacked passenger planes.
The Pen offered to include a disclaimer at the start of the film stating that the police department did not approve the film, to no avail.
“We feel very strongly that these pictures are needed to tell the story,” The Pen said.
The police department’s chief spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday on the suit, filed in state Supreme Court last week.
The Pen is the creator of The People’s Email Network, an online tool that allows people to gather letters on particular political topics and send them to legislators.
Cheney, along with key aides, was a proponent of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which the Bush administration justified by citing weapons of mass destruction and al Qaeda ties that Saddam Hussein turned out not to possess.
While Cheney has repeatedly said that waterboarding and similar techniques yielded valuable information from militants, numerous top intelligence and law enforcement officials dispute that. Moreover, they said techniques that many equate with torture yielded false confessions that sent U.S. officials on wild goose chases.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston