Controversial documentary maker Michael Moore is being investigated by the US government over a recent trip to Cuba as part of a new film about US healthcare.
Moore, who won an Oscar for the 2002 film Bowling for Columbine, was under investigation for taking a group of September 11 rescue workers to Cuba for medical treatment and thereby breaking a 45-year-old US embargo on the country.
A letter from the US treasury written to Moore gives the filmmaker 20 working days to explain the purpose of the trip and give details including departure dates and names and addresses of those who went.
Moore’s spokeswoman Lisa Cohen says the director took 10 rescue workers to Cuba for medical treatment in February.
The group were suffering from medical conditions believed connected to their jobs clearing debris from the site of the World Trade Centre in New York in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks of 2001.
She added that Moore had arranged to have a copy of the film put in a safe location outside the United States to protect it from government interference.
Meghan O’Hara, the producer of Moore’s new film SiCKO, which is due to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next week, blamed President George W Bush for the probe into the Cuba trip.
“The efforts of the Bush administration to conduct a politically-motivated investigation of Michael Moore and SiCKO will not stop us from making sure the American people see this film,” she said in a statement.
“President Bush and the Bush administration should be spending their time trying to help these heroes get health care instead of abusing the legal process to advance a political agenda,” she added.
Bush has been a frequent target in Moore’s films, notably in the 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which accuses President Bush of exploiting the September 11 attacks to justify wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The embargo on Cuba was introduced by former president John F. Kennedy in 1961 and has since been tightened several times, with the stated aim of bringing democracy to the communist-run island.
Under the terms of the embargo, US nationals may not spend money in Cuba, which effectively bars them from travelling to the Caribbean island located just 150 kilometres from the south-eastern tip of the United States.