Former Clinton Administration officials and liberal news media personalities who have been sharply critical of the "The Path to 9/11" miniseries fail to point out that top executives, editors and researchers connected with the docudrama ,who are actually quite left of center themselves, were supportive of the project, according to a new film that explores the controversy.
"The Path to 9/11" is a two part ABC television miniseries that aired on Sept. 10 and 11 in 2006. It is based in part on the 9/11 commission report and presents viewers with a dramatization of the events that lead up to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. in 2001. The film highlights the U.S. government's ineffective response to terrorism in the 1990s and in the first few months of the Bush administration.
To suggest the "The Path" was conceived for the purpose of singling out and smearing the former president as part of a "right wing hit piece" aimed against the former president simply does not square with reality, since the project was launched and conceived by several openly liberal ABC executives the new film explains.
In fact, Clinton supporters who were involved with the project were actually more concerned about the response from the Bush Administration, which came under scrutiny in the second part of the "Path" miniseries, former Los Angeles radio talk show host John Ziegler observed in an interview.
Ziegler is the writer, director and narrator for "Blocking `The Path to 9/11': The Anatomy of a Smear," which will be shown this coming weekend in Washington D.C. as part of the American Film Renaissance Institute (AFRI) Film Festival.
Instead of standing up for a worthwhile project that highlighted some of the key episodes leading up to the 9/11 attacks Disney officials were cowed into effectively censoring and silencing a highly effective docudrama that was educational and informative for the viewing public and potentially profitable for investors, Ziegler argued.
"I don't think the whole story has been told yet," he said. "Anyone who watches this documentary with a remote curiosity will see there are some very serious allegations against Disney. We also have additional evidence beyond what is in the documentary that will show Disney executives were out to silence people in deference to the Clintons and their supporters."
A lot of charges and accusations against the "The Path" centered on Cyrus Nowrasteh, an American screenwriter and producer, responsible for much of the docudrama's content. Judd Legum, a blogger with ThinkProgress.org, who later went to serve on Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign, told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann in an interview that he saw evidence for a political agenda attached to "The Path" tied in with Nowrasteh's ideology.
The exchange between Legum and Olbermann is included in Ziegler's film.
For his part, Nowrasteh acknowledges holding conservative views on national security questions in light of his own family history. Nowrasteh's parents were forced to flee Iran in 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeni came to power.
However, as is explained in the Ziegler documentary, Nowrasteh has connections in the film industry that range the political spectrum. His top research assistant for "The Path" was Mark Tapson, for instance, voted for Clinton twice as did Mitchell Danton who served as an editor on the project.
But the "smoking gun" that should disprove any notion of a conspiracy pertains to Quinn Taylor, the senior vice-president for the mini series at ABC, the new film claims. In an email message Ziegler described Taylor as a "far left liberal" who was eager to speak out in defense of "The Path" but was silenced by Disney executives.
"Disney officials took a dive on their own movie but they decided it was better to suffer a financial loss than it was to antagonize the Clintons and Democrats in Congress," Ziegler said. "That's really what this comes down to and it's tragic because it means some of the most important lessons about 9/11 will be lost to future generations. Most, if not all, of the lawmakers on the left who were attacking the film had not even bothered to see it."
Top Democratic Party officials, including former members of the Clinton administration, claim the film is laced with inaccuracies. Madeline Albright, the secretary of state under President Clinton, Sandy Berger, the former national security advisor and Bruce Lindsey, a Clinton attorney all expressed strong reservations about the film to Disney in written correspondence. Lindsey called on Disney to cancel the film in one of his letters.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other leading Democrats, also demanded Disney officials withdraw the film in a letter dated Sept. 7, 2006.
"That Disney would seek to broadcast an admittedly and proven false recounting of the events of 9/11 raise serious questions about the motivations of its creators and those who approved the deeply flawed program," the letter states.
"The Path" does focus attention on the many missed opportunities in the 1990s for the Clinton Administration to take out Osama Bin Laden. These various episodes were combined into a single event in the docudrama, Nowrasteh acknowledges.
The resulting sequence shows that it was Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger who failed to pull the trigger and called off a crucial mission in Afghanistan when U.S. forces had Bin Laden targeted.
"What I did was I took the highlights of a number of different episodes and coordinated them into a single one, which is what you do in a docudrama," Nowrasteh explains in Ziegler's film. "I suppose I could have been more fair if I documented and dramatized all 13 episodes and incidents. But would that have made the attacks any less. I don't think so, I don't think the attacks would have been any less severe."
Berger and other Clinton official claim the scene is complete fiction, while the filmmakers say the controversial sequence is a dramatization that accurately captures a long history of tepid responses to terrorism.
"Blocking `The Path to 9/11'" will be screened this coming Saturday night at the Goeth Institute in Washington D.C.
It includes the sequence Clinton Administration officials objected to where Berger calls off a strike against Bin Laden. The material that was removed at the behest of former administration officials and other top Democrats when "The Path" was aired on television is reinserted.
Ziegler's film points out that pg. 111 of the 9/11 commission report calls attention to a "scrapped mission" that occurred at the time Clinton was facing impeachment.
Tom Kean, the former governor of New Jersey, who co-chaired the commission, also appears in the new documentary.
"There was a phone call made, no question about it, that stopped an operation, which might have been successful, might not have been successful, we don't know," he observes. "But they were trying to get or kill Bin Laden...Somebody made a phone call, it might have been George Tenet (the CIA director) but the producers of the film decided it was probably Sandy Berger and Sand Berger denied it was him. But he didn't step forward and say it was someone else either - so I just don't know. That was something unclear in the report."