- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 2, 2006

With the first reports of trouble at the World Trade Center, Americans began a process of remembering, recovering and trying to understand what can never be fully understood.

In that spirit, many TV networks will mark the fifth anniversary of September 11 with a wide range of programming looking back at that terrible day and the aftermath till now.

However, Ted Koppel will be looking resolutely ahead in a companion effort.

In his inaugural project for the Discovery Network, the former ABC Newsman will present a two-part program exploring the vexing, vital issue of national security in the future.

“The Price of Security,” airing Sept. 10 at 8 p.m., begins with a 90-minute documentary in which Mr. Koppel interviews current and former administration members as well as military and security experts to examine challenges still facing the government in its war on terrorism. Then Mr. Koppel will host a live 90-minute town-hall-style meeting with September 11 family members, civil libertarians, Bush administration officials and members of Congress.

How is national security to be balanced with the freedoms on which the nation was founded?

One side of the largely sidetracked debate holds that America would be altered forever by another September 11-scale attack and that no measures are too drastic to prevent a terrorist’s use of a weapon of mass destruction against the U.S. This fear has largely driven post-September 11 policy ? “the conviction of the president and his top aides that they are up against this existential threat and that they have to avoid it at all costs,” Mr. Koppel says.

On the other side, he says, are those who argue “that America is great because it hews to a set of standards and laws that, theoretically at least, apply equally to everyone. And that once you start to play around with that system, you undermine the very thing that makes us what we are.”

It could be a case of destroying America in order to save it, that argument might hold — “and in the long run,” Mr. Koppel adds, “more damaging to America than even another terrorist attack.”

The debate framed by Mr. Koppel’s program is one the nation “must have before the next terrorist attack happens,” he warns. “After it happens, it’ll be too late. There won’t be room in the conversation to have discussions about privacy and constitutional freedoms.”

Mr. Koppel’s forward-looking program is a worthy companion to many other hours of September 11-themed coverage (including numerous documentaries) across the networks — most of it dealing with the past and present. Here’s a sample:

• “Inside the Twin Towers” (tonight at 9; Discovery) uses interviews, archival footage, computer-generated imagery and dramatic reactions to retrace the 102 minutes from 8:46 a.m., when Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center’s north tower, until the tower’s collapse.

• “NOVA: Building on Ground Zero” (Tuesday at 8 p.m.; PBS) probes the conclusions of the government’s engineering investigation into the towers’ collapse.

• “Metal of Honor” (Tuesday at 9 p.m.; Spike TV) chronicles the New York City ironworkers who risked their lives at ground zero to burn through steel to clear paths for emergency personnel while searching for survivors.

• “Five Years Later— How Safe Are We?” (Wednesday at 10 p.m.; CBS) marks the first prime-time special by new CBS News anchor Katie Couric, who is scheduled to interview President Bush.

• “Trapped in the Towers: The Elevators of 9/11” (Saturday at 8 p.m.; A&E;) hears from survivors who recount the horrors of being in the burning towers. Their testimony is supplemented by film footage, re-enactments and graphics.

• “Brothers Lost: Stories of 9/11” (September 11 at 7 p.m.; Cinemax) tells of 31 men who lost siblings in the World Trade Center attacks.

• “America Rebuilds II: Return to Ground Zero” (September 11 at 9 p.m.; PBS) picks up where Part I left off (at the May 2002 ceremony marking the end of the site recovery process), covering the uncertain efforts to begin new construction.

• “9/11: The Day That Changed America” (September 11 at 10 p.m.; MSNBC) finds Chris Matthews asking a number of prominent Americans — including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and actor Samuel L. Jackson —to recall the moment when they heard the dreadful news.

• “Dust to Dust: The Health Effects of 9/11” (September 11 at 10 p.m.; Sundance) follows some of the first responders of 9/11 who have become seriously ill and are fighting for compensation.

• A very different sort of project is “The Path to 9/11” (September 10 and 11 at 8 p.m., ABC), a sorrowful but enlightening dramatization based on the 9/11 Commission Report. The five-hour miniseries turns back the clock to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, then moves forward through the many missed opportunities to prevent the September 11 terrorism, with which the film concludes.

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