Ex-CIA Agents Back Missing Suit
Defendants in a $60 million libel suit against the 1980 film Missing, directed by Greek film maker Constantin Costa-Gavras, have filed a motion to dismiss the Suit, presently before Federal District Judge Kevin T. Duffy in New York. The motion was made on the grounds that the film is neither libelous nor false.
According to Frederick Leopold, a lawyer lor %4K A Inc., one of the defendants, "the question in this particular case is whether U.S, officials somehow or another either stood by and didnít do anything when they should have, or otherwise condoned the death of Charles Horman." Robert Kasanof, lawyer for the plaintiffs, could not he reached for comment.
Charles Horman was an American who moved to Chile shortly before a military coup there in 1973 to pursue a career as a freelance writer. Shortly after the coup, his bullet riddled body was found in a Santiago morgue. Hormanís death was dramatized in the film Missing; however, the country in which the film occurs is never revealed and few real names are used. The movie was a hox office hit and was one of two films to share first prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980.
The lawsuit was filed by Nathaniel Davis, U.S. Ambassador to Chile at the time of the Coup, and two other officials, former U.S. Consul in Santiago Frederick Purdy, and Capt. Ray Davis, a retired naval officer, who was commander of the United States Military Group there.
Named as defendants are the filmís director Costa-Gavras, who also wrote the screenplay, Universal Studios and its parent company MCA. As originally filed in 1983, the suit named Thomas Hauser who wrote the book and his publishers the Hearst Corp. and Avon books. However, the judge who had the case previous to Duffy, Abraham D. Sofaer, dismissed the suit against the book because the statute of limitations had run out. Sofaer, who also tried the libel suit by former Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon against Time magazine, stepped down from the Missing suit after he was offered a high level position in the State Department last March.
Nathaniel Davis has stated, in his recently released book, The Last Two Years of Salvador Allende, and in an interview, that both the film and the book contain inaccuracies. He points to several scenes from the film to illustrate this contention.
The defendants counter the charge of inaccuracies in the story with two arguments: first, that because the film does not mention Davis or the other plaintiffs by name there is no proof of malice, which is necessary to sustain a libel suit against public officials. Secondly, they insist that both the book and the movie are truthful.
In one scene being contended in the suit, Charles Horman and a companion, Terry Simon are depicted in Vina Del Mar on the Chilean coast during the first days after the coup where they meet Art Creter, an American, who introduces himself as a naval engineer.
Creter speaks freely with the two, and after announcing he is with the U.S. Navy, adds, "We came down to do a job and itís done." According to Davis, both the film and the book assert that Charles Horman died because he heard those words.
Davis doesnít deny there was a conversation. However, he contends that Terry Simonís notes do not support the way Hauser quoted it in the book, or the way the scene is depicted in the film.
Thomas Hauser believes the suit is "legal extortion" and claims that a State Dept. cable sent to Ray Davis acknowledges that Creter did make the statement.