Much the same way I wrote yesterday, Hugh Hewitt is uncomfortable with the “fake but accurate” stance some people have taken with the ABC miniseries “The Path to 9/11.” He writes about the Sandy Berger scene and sums it up in two ways:

The preceding leaves us with two possible explanations regarding the controversial scene. One is that the filmmakers have unearthed a previously unknown jewel that they can fully document; that Berger really did slam down the phone on a field agent looking for guidance. If that’s the case, then this entire conversation is irrelevant and you should cease reading this essay.

The other explanation is that, being a docudrama, the filmmakers included a fabricated scene (which was a composite of many real factors) to dramatize the ineptitude and fecklessness that so characterized the Clinton administration. One can (if one so chooses) give the filmmakers artistic license to do such a thing. But if that is what they have done, conservative analysts who back this movie as a historical document will mortgage their credibility doing so.

YOU MIGHT NOTE THAT the defense of the scene offers a rationale that Dan Rather would probably be comfortable with — fake but accurate. I’m uncomfortable embracing such a rationale, and I suspect most other bloggers who have rushed to tout the film will feel the same way once they think it through.

I’m especially uncomfortable with this controversy since it’s so unnecessary. The record of the Clinton administration on terrorism is an embarrassment and a disgrace. All serious studies of the matter have reached the same conclusion.

But you won’t get a committed supporter of President Clinton to admin that. In related news, Justin Levine posted a great article at Patterico.com about this issue. Here are some of his basic points:

Let’s also try to all stipulate and agree about a few things:

1. The terrorists were ultimately responsible for 9/11. Period. They, and they alone, are to blame (Though blame is admittedly different than mere “criticism” which is what this film inspires debate over in regards to our leaders.)

2. If there were someone in the government (of any administration) who clearly could have prevented 9/11 and failed to do so, it would be unlikely that they would clearly admit to that to the 9/11 Commission, the press, or anyone else.

3. Some partisans on both sides were added to the 9/11 Commission to essentially try and “protect” their own side — resulting in a document that only included what everyone could agree on. Omissions and limitations in the 9/11 Commission report were inevitable, and the Commission itself was aware of that. As a result, the Commission report is certainly not the last word on historical fact (though it can still be a useful tool as a starting point).

Can we at least all agree on that???

[I would also add that Sandy Berger's attempt to remove documents from the National archive while the 9/11 Commission was meeting casts suspicions on his credibility in the final report himself -- but I don't even expect a unanimous opinion about that in the current political climate, so I won't include it in the above list.]

So are there inaccuracies in the film? Of course!

But are these inaccuracies enough to torpedo the movie? It depends on which side of the political fence you come down on, apparently. Democrats have been up in arms over this movie, which the vast majority have not seen, and they appear to have succeeded in making ABC alter some of the miniseries. News Busters is reporting that ABC has caved to Democrat demands and altered the miniseries, and there is still a possibility that ABC will pull the whole miniseries.

News Busters also points to a comment made by Rush Limbaugh about this mess:

I’ll tell you, the thing that is stunning to me, when you compare Bill Clinton the man, and other presidents, George Bush the man, how many times did George Bush or any in the Republican administration demand that Fahrenheit 9/11, that stupid, lying, so-called documentary by Michael Moore not be shown in theaters? Republicans were even going to the premieres of those things. Republicans appeared in it, even though they may have been sandbagged by Moore, they were in it. But the president nor his administration said a word about it. I’ll tell you something else. Sandy Burglar is all upset about the way he’s portrayed in this movie. Sandy Burglar gets a major break. This movie does not portray Sandy Burglar stealing documents in his pants and his socks from the National Archives.

On Sunday and Monday of this weekend, ABC will broadcast “The Path to 9/11,” or as ABC puts it:

ABC will present “The Path to 9/11,” a dramatization of the events detailed in The 9/11 Commission Report and other sources, in an epic miniseries event that will air with limited commercial interruption.

The Left in this country are already getting riled up over this miniseries, but I’m not sure whether they are more concerned about the dramatization of events they say didn’t happen, or that so much blame is laid at the feet of their beloved President Clinton.

A common complaint voiced about the miniseries is that it shows events that didn’t happen. Here’s how this was written up at ThinkProgress.org:

The first night of Path to 9/11 has a dramatic scene where former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger refuses to give the order to the CIA to take out bin Laden — even though CIA agents, along with the Northern Alliance, have his house surrounded. Rush Limbaugh, who refers to Nowrasteh as “a friend of mine,” reviews the action:

So the CIA, the Northern Alliance, surrounding a house where bin Laden is in Afghanistan, they’re on the verge of capturing, but they need final approval from the Clinton administration in order to proceed.

So they phoned Washington. They phoned the White House. Clinton and his senior staff refused to give authorization for the capture of bin Laden because they’re afraid of political fallout if the mission should go wrong, and if civilians were harmed… Now, the CIA agent in this is portrayed as being astonished. “Are you kidding?” He asked Berger over and over, “Is this really what you guys want?”

Berger then doesn’t answer after giving his first admonition, “You guys go in on your own. If you go in we’re not sanctioning this, we’re not approving this,” and Berger just hangs up on the agent after not answering any of his questions.

ThinkProgress has obtained a response to this scene from Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism czar for Bush I, Clinton and Bush II, and now counterterrorism adviser to ABC:

1. Contrary to the movie, no US military or CIA personnel were on the ground in Afghanistan and saw bin Laden.

2. Contrary to the movie, the head of the Northern Alliance, Masood, was no where near the alleged bin Laden camp and did not see UBL.

3. Contrary to the movie, the CIA Director actually said that he could not recommend a strike on the camp because the information was single sourced and we would have no way to know if bin Laden was in the target area by the time a cruise missile hit it.

In short, this scene — which makes the incendiary claim that the Clinton administration passed on a surefire chance to kill or catch bin Laden — never happened. It was completely made up by Nowrasteh.

The actual history is quite different. According to the 9/11 Commission Report (pg. 199), then-CIA Director George Tenet had the authority from President Clinton to kill Bin Laden. Roger Cressy, former NSC director for counterterrorism, has written, “Mr. Clinton approved every request made of him by the CIA and the U.S. military involving using force against bin Laden and al-Qaeda.”

That charge is pretty damning. I listened to the local Air America Radio show as I drove into work this morning, and the host had someone on who was identified as an editor for ThinkProgressive.com. He stated in solemn tones that the above Sandy Berger scene didn’t happen, and “nothing like it happened.” Really? Proving a negative is tough, but there may be something to the scene. Here is something the New York Sun printed in the summer of 2004 about Sandy Berger, based on the 9/11 Commission’s report.

Well, look now to what the 9/11 report has to say about the man to whom President Clinton, under attack by an independent counsel, delegated so much in respect of national security, Samuel “Sandy” Berger. The report cites a 1998 meeting between Mr. Berger and the director of central intelligence, George Tenet, at which Mr. Tenet presented a plan to capture Osama bin Laden.

“In his meeting with Tenet, Berger focused most, however, on the question of what was to be done with Bin Ladin if he were actually captured. He worried that the hard evidence against Bin Ladin was still skimpy and that there was a danger of snatching him and bringing him to the United States only to see him acquitted,” the report says, citing a May 1, 1998, Central Intelligence Agency memo summarizing the weekly meeting between Messrs. Berger and Tenet.

In June of 1999, another plan for action against Mr. bin Laden was on the table. The potential target was a Qaeda terrorist camp in Afghanistan known as Tarnak Farms. The commission report released yesterday cites Mr. Berger’s “handwritten notes on the meeting paper” referring to “the presence of 7 to 11 families in the Tarnak Farms facility, which could mean 60-65 casualties.” According to the Berger notes, “if he responds, we’re blamed.”

On December 4, 1999, the National Security Council’s counterterrorism coordinator, Richard Clarke, sent Mr. Berger a memo suggesting a strike in the last week of 1999 against Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. Reports the commission: “In the margin next to Clarke’s suggestion to attack Al Qaeda facilities in the week before January 1, 2000, Berger wrote, ‘no.’ “

In August of 2000, Mr. Berger was presented with another possible plan for attacking Mr. bin Laden. This time, the plan would be based on aerial surveillance from a “Predator” drone. Reports the commission: “In the memo’s margin, Berger wrote that before considering action, ‘I will want more than verified location: we will need, at least, data on pattern of movements to provide some assurance he will remain in place.’ “

In other words, according to the commission report, Mr. Berger was presented with plans to take action against the threat of Al Qaeda four separate times — Spring 1998, June 1999, December 1999, and August 2000. Each time, Mr. Berger was an obstacle to action. Had he been a little less reluctant to act, a little more open to taking pre-emptive action, maybe the 2,973 killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks would be alive today.

So here are four known examples of Berger blocking action against al-Qaeda. We cannot say for sure that these were the only times Berger blocked action against al-Qaeda, because the documentary evidence is now tainted by *drum roll* Sandy Berger himself. Berger confessed to removing top secret documents from the National Archive, and destroying some of them. Because he was unsupervised during these visits, it is very possible that he substituted uncommented copies of these documents. For this, he got a slap on the wrist. This is why Rush Limbaugh refers to him as “Sandy Burglar.”

This whole brouhaha about the miniseries leads me to wonder whether writer Cyrus Nowrasteh created this scene based on some specific information he has, or whether the scene represents an amalgam of the four times Berger blocked action against bin Laden, or whether it is just a bit of creative writing for dramatic effect.

I understand that ABC says this miniseries is “a dramatization, not a documentary, drawn from a variety of sources, including the 9/11 Commission report, other published materials and from personal interviews.” But does that grant them license to fiddle with the facts for dramatic effect?

And if this miniseries has unsubstantiated scenes added for dramatic effect, doesn’t it fall into the “fake, but accurate” camp? I’m not sure I like the sound of that.