Controversial anti-Muslim film permit pulled from public view
The filming permit for the controversial "Innocence of Muslims" has been temporarily pulled from public view at the request of federal agencies, Los Angeles County officials said Thursday.
Film permits are normally available on the Internet through the nonprofit group FilmL.A., but officials there referred Times reporters to county attorneys late Wednesday.
On Thursday, county officials said they had been asked to keep the permit from view because of safety concerns. The film has sparked violent protests throughout the Middle East because of its depiction of the prophet Muhammad.
The film was shot in Los Angeles County in August of 2011 under the working title of “Desert Warriors," according to records.
Film permits often contain information such as addresses and cellphone numbers that could be used to locate crew members. "Innocence of Muslim" actors have said they were misled by film producers and that their lines were later dubbed.
"This particular permit has been temporarily removed at the specific request of federal authorities, who have cited public safety concerns," said Ryan Alsop, assistant to county Chief Executive William T. Fujioka.
Alsop said the FBI and U.S. Department of State made the request to pull the permit.
[Updated at 5 p.m. Alsop later said federal agencies did not make a formal request to to pull the permits, but did speak with county officials who then decided to take down the paperwork because of safety concerns.]
Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware, an open government group, said the film permit was the rare case in which he would not object to withholding information from some groups.
"If I were the county officials, I would give The Times or other verifiably authentic news media the full documents but refuse to give them to unknown others, who might intend criminal harm. This discrimination is not permitted by the California Public Records Act, but my instinct would be to dare unknown requesters, in effect, to sue for the information, knowing that terrorists would not do so," he said in an email.
The State Department could not immediately be reached for comment to confirm they had made the request. [Updated at 3:15 p.m.: FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said: “While the FBI may have shared information [with Film LA], the decision about whether or not to disclose records is up to the county and its policies."]FilmL.A. Inc. confirmed the movie was shot in Los Angeles County in August 2011, but the president of the film agency said he didn't know what the project's intent was.
“By law, the content of film projects need not be disclosed in order to apply for or receive a film permit from FilmL.A. Neither FilmL.A. nor its government partners had any foreknowledge of this project’s content, and the release of a film permit can in no way be construed as endorsement or approval of this film,” said a statement from President Paul Audley.
-- Jason Song and Andrew Blankstein