Film­maker Moore probed about Cuba trip

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

LOS AN­GE­LES (AP) — Lib­eral film­maker Michael Moore is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Trea­sury De­part­ment for tak­ing ail­ing Septem­ber 11 res­cue work­ers to Cuba for a seg­ment in his up­com­ing health­care doc­u­men­tary “Sicko,” the As­so­ci­ated Press has learned.

The movie prom­ises to take the health care in­dus­try to task the way Mr. Moore con­fronted Amer­ica’s pas­sion for guns in “Bowl­ing for Columbine” and skew­ered Pres­i­dent Bush over his han­dling of the Septem­ber 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks in “Fahren­heit 9/11.”

The Trea­sury De­part­ment’s Of­fice of For­eign As­sets Con­trol (OFAC) no­ti­fied Mr. Moore in a let­ter dated May 2 that it was con­duct­ing a civil in­ves­ti­ga­tion for pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tions of the U.S. trade em­bargo re­strict­ing travel to Cuba. A copy of the let­ter was ob­tained May 8 by the AP.

“This of­fice has no record that a spe­cific li­cense was is­sued au­tho­riz­ing you to en­gage in travel-re­lated trans­ac­tions in­volv­ing Cuba,” Dale Thompson, OFAC chief of gen­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions and field op­er­a­tions, wrote in the let­ter.

In Fe­bru­ary, the film­maker took about 10 ail­ing work­ers from the ground zero res­cue ef­fort in Man­hat­tan for treat­ment in Cuba, said a per­son work­ing with Mr. Moore on the re­lease of “Sicko.” The per­son re­quested anonymity be­cause Mr. Moore’s at­tor­neys had not yet de­ter­mined how to re­spond.

Mr. Moore, who scolded Mr. Bush over the Iraq war dur­ing the 2003 Os­car tele­cast, re­ceived the let­ter May 7, the per­son said. “Sicko” pre­mieres May 19 at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val and de­buts in U.S. the­aters on June 29.

Mr. Moore de­clined to com­ment, spokes­woman Lisa Co­hen said.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing the let­ter, Mr. Moore ar­ranged to place a copy of the film in a “safe house” out­side the U.S. to pro­tect it from gov­ern­ment in­ter­fer­ence, the per­son work­ing on the re­lease of the film said.

Trea­sury of­fi­cials de­clined to an­swer ques­tions about the let­ter.

“We don’t com­ment on en­force­ment ac­tions,” de­part­ment spokes­woman Molly Miller­wise said.

The let­ter notes that Mr. Moore ap­plied Oct. 12 for per­mis­sion to go to Cuba, “but no de­ter­mi­na­tion had been made by OFAC.” The film­maker sought per­mis­sion to travel there un­der a pro­vi­sion for full-time jour­nal­ists, the let­ter said.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter, Mr. Moore was given 20 busi­ness days to pro­vide OFAC with in­for­ma­tion such as the date of travel and point of de­par­ture; the rea­son for the Cuba trip and his itin­er­ary there; and the names and ad­dresses of those who would ac­com­pany him, along with their rea­sons for go­ing.

Po­ten­tial penal­ties for vi­o­lat­ing the em­bargo were not in­di­cated. In 2003, the New York Yan­kees paid the gov­ern­ment $75,000 to settle a dis­pute that it con­ducted busi­ness in Cuba in vi­o­la­tion of the em­bargo. No specifics were re­leased about that case.

Mr. Moore’s op­po­nents have ac­cused him of dis­tort­ing the facts, and his Cuba trip pro­voked crit­i­cism from con­ser­va­tives in­clud­ing for­mer Sen. Fred Thompson, Ten­nessee Repub­li­can, who as­sailed the film­maker in a blog on Na­tional Re­view On­line.

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