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.