- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

The September 11-related films “United 93” and “World Trade Center” proved Hollywood could revisit that horrifying day while filtering out ideological background noise.

Along comes “The Path to 9/11,” and former President Bill Clinton, some top members of his national security team and denizens of the partisan blogosphere have drawn swords. The two-part film, which debuts at 8 p.m. Sunday and wraps at the same time Monday, chronicles Islamic terrorist attacks on U.S. interests through the 1990s, from the original World Trade Center bombing in 1993 to the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.

The former president, as well as his Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger fired off letters to ABC this week claiming the miniseries contains significant factual errors and the network shouldn’t air it uncorrected, according to Associated Press.

Richard Ben-Veniste, Mr. Clinton’s lawyer and a member of the 9/11 Commission, also voiced his dismay at “Path” during a recent screening held at the National Press Club but did not return a call for further comment.

Liberal Web pundits have stamped the new ABC miniseries a gross misrepresentation of history. One poster at www.mediamatters.org called it “Soviet-style propaganda,” while Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of www.dailykos.com fame dubbed the effort “simply bull-expletive.”

Why all the hubbub?

“The Path to 9/11” illustrates numerous governmental gaffes in the years leading up to September 11 but leaves the Clinton administration bearing the brunt of the blame with a number of indelible sequences.

Case in point: a scene in which CIA operatives and members of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance have Osama bin Laden in their cross hairs but can’t get approval from Mr. Berger to pull the trigger.

Is it possible that a long-standing member of the mainstream media, ABC, could produce a miniseries that takes direct aim at the left’s darling ex-president?

“The Path to 9/11” screenwriter Cyrus Nowrasteh says his film isn’t partisan.

“The people who work with me know we have tried to be fair and even and have factual support for all the choices we made,” says Mr. Nowrasteh, an Iranian American whose previous TV projects include “The Day Reagan Was Shot” and “Into the West.” “It is accurate and representative of what went down. Berger really ran those meetings.”

He admits that the film takes some liberties with actual events but says that’s only for creative reasons.

“There were numerous attempts to capture or snatch bin Laden,” he says. “So many are classified. I’ve heard [of] eight to a dozen attempts. … We conflated them into one big scene.”

The film’s producers based the project on a number of sources, most notably the 9/11 Commission report as well as the books “The Cell” and “Relentless Pursuit.”

In a conference call Tuesday, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, a Republican who served as the 9/11 Commission chairman as well as a “Path” senior consultant, said he understood that if the film portrays what actually happened, “people in both administrations are not gonna be happy.”

“It’s a colossal failure of government,” Mr. Kean said. “Nineteen people were able to foil every defense the United States government had. We didn’t even delay them, let alone stop them.”

Mr. Kean answered a volley of questions about the Berger scene but dismissed the notion that “Path” is the product of a right-wing conspiracy.

“Hollywood is now being considered supportive of the right? That’s a brand-new perspective,” he said.

Both Mr. Kean and actor Donnie Wahlberg, who co-stars in “Path” and sat in on Tuesday’s teleconference, insisted that the pre-September 11 actions of politicians must be taken in the proper context.

“These are decisions made without knowing what the future held,” Mr. Wahlberg said.

“This was a time before people recognized how evil and terrible these people were,” Mr. Kean added.

Mr. Wahlberg said earlier scripts were much harder on the Clinton administration.

“I think great care was taken to not make people look bad. The finished product is lot safer and mild,” he said. “I think the choice for the producers … was to not try to gang up on people.”

Let’s not leave out another reason for the outcry. “Path” is a meticulously crafted miniseries, one that depicts terrorists in three dimensions while never letting viewers forget their innate evil.

Mr. Nowrasteh says he hopes the project does more than just dangle red meat before partisan bloggers.

“Path,” he says, is a wake-up call for those who think the U.S. can fight terrorism as if it were a pesky legal matter, bending over backward not to offend one group or another.

“If you’re trying to be politically correct in this kind of a fight, you’re hamstringing yourself,” he says.

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