Clinton Administration Officials Assail ABC's 'The Path to 9/11'
Thursday, September 7, 2006
Top officials of the Clinton administration have launched a preemptive strike against an ABC-TV "docudrama," slated to air Sunday and Monday, that they say includes made-up scenes depicting them as undermining attempts to kill Osama bin Laden.
Former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright called one scene involving her "false and defamatory." Former national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger said the film "flagrantly misrepresents my personal actions." And former White House aide Bruce R. Lindsey, who now heads the William J. Clinton Foundation, said: "It is unconscionable to mislead the American public about one of the most horrendous tragedies our country has ever known."
ABC's entertainment division said the six-hour movie, "The Path to 9/11," will say in a disclaimer that it is a "dramatization . . . not a documentary" and contains "fictionalized scenes." But the disclaimer also says the movie is based on the Sept. 11 commission's report, although that report contradicts several key scenes.
Berger said in an interview that ABC is "certainly trying to create the impression that this is realistic, but it's a fabrication."
Marc Platt, the film's executive producer, said that although it "does contain composite and conflated scenes and representative characters and dialogue, we've worked very hard to be fair. If individuals feel they're wrongly portrayed, that's obviously of concern. We've portrayed the essence of the truth of these events. Our intention was not in any way to be political or present a point of view."
The former Clinton aides voiced their objections in letters to Robert A. Iger, chief executive of ABC's corporate parent, the Walt Disney Co., but the network refused to make changes or to give them advance copies of the movie. They were not interviewed by ABC; it hired as a co-executive producer Thomas H. Kean, the Republican who chaired the Sept. 11 commission, but no Democratic members of the panel.
"In an undertaking this gargantuan," Platt said, "it's impossible to interview every single person available, and we didn't believe we needed to." He said that "maybe I'm naive" in thinking that hiring only Kean would not prompt criticism of a political slant.
The fierceness of the debate reflects a recognition that a $40 million miniseries -- whose cast includes Harvey Keitel, Patricia Heaton and Penny Johnson Jerald -- can damage Clinton's legacy in the anti-terrorism fight on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Among the scenes that the Clinton team said are fictional:
· Berger is seen as refusing authorization for a proposed raid to capture bin Laden in spring 1998 to CIA operatives in Afghanistan who have the terrorist leader in their sights. A CIA operative sends a message: "We're ready to load the package. Repeat, do we have clearance to load the package?" Berger responds: "I don't have that authority."
Berger said that neither he nor Clinton ever rejected a CIA or military request to conduct an operation against bin Laden. The Sept. 11 commission said no CIA operatives were poised to attack; that Afghanistan's rebel Northern Alliance was not involved, as the film says; and that then-CIA Director George J. Tenet decided the plan would not work.
· Tenet is depicted as challenging Albright for having alerted Pakistan in advance of the August 1998 missile strike that unsuccessfully targeted bin Laden.