"The Path to 9/11" (2006 Docudrama)

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"The Path to 9/11" is a two-part miniseries loosely based on the 9/11 Commission Final Report issued July 22, 2004, and the 2003 book The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It [1] by journalists John Miller, Michael Stone, and Chris Mitchell (ISBN 0786887826), according to Front Page Magazine. [2]

The $40 million "not a documentary" (i.e. docudrama) was written and produced by Cyrus Nowrasteh for ABC, which is owned by The Walt Disney Company. [3]

It aired September 10 and 11, 2006—the 5th Anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks—on the ABC Network in the U.S., BBC 2 in the U.K., TV ONE in New Zealand, and in Australia on Prime and Seven Network. The first segment of the program aired in Australia 14.5 hours before it aired in the USA.

Although the docudrama was originally scheduled to run for six hours, ABC aired the program commercial-free, which translated "to about five commercial minutes per hour, or less than a third of the normal load." [4]


Presidential Address: September 11, 2006

In the middle of the second part of the miniseries, on September 11, 2006, at 9:01 P.M. EDT, President George W. Bush addressed the Nation from the Oval Office at the White House "to discuss the nature of the threat still before us, what we are doing to protect our nation, and the building of a more hopeful Middle East that holds the key to peace for America and the world."

"It is rare at this stage of a war for a president, any president, to have anything new to say to justify the loss of lives and the squandering of national treasure," Walter Shapiro wrote September 12, 2006, in Salon.

As expected, in his September 5, 2006, speech, "at the beginning of his September offensive to justify the status quo in Iraq, George W. Bush declared, as he had so many times before, 'We're determined to prevent terrorist attacks before they occur. So we're taking the fight to the enemy. The best way to protect America is to stay on the offensive'," Shapiro wrote.

However, in his September 11, 2006, speech, Shapiro wrote, "Maybe, just maybe, for one brief moment, Bush could recapture the sense of unity and community that we shared during those moments of national mourning five summers ago.

"What stunned me was that instead," Shapiro wrote, "with just a few chilling sentences, Bush painted a portrait of war without end, amen. 'The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict,' Bush declared. 'It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation. Our nation is being tested in a way that we have not since the start of the Cold War.'

"Think about that presidential prediction," Shapiro wrote. "Bush is saying that 50 or 60 years from now, when today's children are worried about cosmetic surgery and their retirement homes, we will still be on the battlements worldwide against an enemy whom we might call al-Qaida, the terrorists, violent Islamic radicals, the evildoers or, simply, them. This is not merely a war like Vietnam that will come to an abject end after it destroys two presidencies. No, in the Bush version of the future, a dystopian epic that might be called 'It's an Awful Life,' peace is a blessed oasis that might not be reached until the era of 'a bridge to the 22nd century'."

American Airlines

American Airlines issued a statement on September 11, 2006, in which it said:

"'The Disney/ABC television program, The Path to 9/11, which began airing last night, is inaccurate and irresponsible in its portrayal of the airport check-in events that occurred on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
"'A factual description of those events can be found in the official government edition of the 9/11 Commission Report and supporting documents.
"'This misrepresentation of facts dishonors the memory of innocent American Airlines employees and all those who lost their lives as a result of the tragic events of 9/11.'
"American said it will have no further comment beyond the statement at this time" but current AMR Corp. releases can be accessed on the Internet at http://www.aa.com/.

Disney/ABC

"Offical ABC Statement on The Path to 9/11"

"The Path to 9/11 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.

"The events that lead [sic] to 9/11 originally sparked great debate, so it's not surprising that a movie surrounding those events has revived the debate.

"The attacks were a pivotal moment in our history that should never be forgotten and it's fitting that the discussion continues."—ABC Television, September 7, 2006. [5]

"Rehashing" 9/11

The 9/11 Commission Final Report was issued July 22, 2004, and by October 2004 both NBC and ABC had begun what E online's Josh Grossberg characterized as "Rehashing 9-11" to "reenact the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001."

NBC planned to rely on the "best seller" 9/11 Commission Report. ABC was "quietly mounting its own TV-movie version of the terror attacks, initiating talks with several notable producers about also using the 9/11 Commission Report as the basis for its sweeping story," Grossberg wrote.

According to his current ABC bio, Quinn Taylor, senior vice president of Motion Pictures for Television and Miniseries, "has overseen all made-for-TV movies and miniseries for ABC Entertainment since January 2002" and his "slate for the 2006-07 season includes a collection of bold and ambitious projects, including The Path to 9/11, an adaptation of the 9/11 Commission Report."

In fact, according to a September 6, 2006, Boston Globe article by Suzanne C. Ryan, Taylor said that it was he who "proposed the project after reading the 9/11 report."

Taylor told Edward Wyatt of the New York Times the same thing, adding that he "settled on" David L. Cunningham, "who had directed Little House on the Prairie for ABCâ??s Wonderful World of Disney," as director and Cyrus Nowrasteh as screenwriter "after reading his script for The Day Reagan Was Shot, a 2001 television movie that was shown on the Showtime cable network."

In an August 2006 interview, Nowrasteh told Jamie Glasov of FrontPageMag.com that early in 2005 he was approached by ABC and asked if he'd "be interested in writing/producing a miniseries based on the 9/11 Commission Report."

Nowrasteh told Glasov that he "expanded" his "research beyond the commission report, which only goes back to 1998, concluding that [he] needed to go back to the first attack on the WTC in '93 and tell this story over six hours," to which executive producer Marc E. Platt and Quinn Taylor agreed.

In the July 28, 2005, New York Post, Don Kaplan and David K. Li wrote that ABC officials were "calling the miniseries Untitled Commission Report and producers [referred] to it as the Untitled History Project." (See below.)

Kaplan and Li quoted producer Marc E. Platt, who said: "It is the first big Hollywood project to deal with the attacks and is based on the best-selling 9/11 Commission Report, with former N.J. Governor and commission chairman Thomas Kean and other members of the panel serving as consultants."

Jim Slotek wrote in the July 27, 2005, Toronto Sun that Nowrasteh "talked about the project at the recent conservative Liberty Film Festival in L.A. 'We will be connecting the facts and telling the story as it goes back to the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 ... It will be about how even back then, there were a lot of people who were ahead of the game, who were concerned about the threat of Islamic terrorism, and how they were treated.' Some of the information is taken from an acclaimed [1997] PBS Frontline special about O'Neill's career and frustrations as a terrorist-buster during the Clinton administration.

"'Anything about 9/11 will be controversial,' he said. 'I commend ABC because they have continually asked me to be as truthful and honest as I can be. The producers have made every effort to be objective and tell the story truthfully—because that's what the subject matter, and our audience, deserves.'"

In August 2005, Quinn Taylor told USA TODAY's Scott Bowles that "his miniseries would have been impossible without the 9/11 Commission's 600-page report.

"'We just wouldn't have had the manpower to do the kind of research that the government did,' he says. 'It reads frighteningly like a thriller.'"

When asked whether audiences were "'prepared for that kind of thriller'," "Wanda Teays, a film professor at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, [said]: 'There should be no rush to re-create 9/11. I don't think we're close to forgetting it â?? or in need of a reminder.'"

Controversy is good for business

It was also Quinn Taylor who, in December 2005, "acknowledged that controversy surrounding" Mel Gibson's new "nonfiction television movie set against the backdrop of the Holocaust" "could help publicize the project. But he had a harsh reply for early critics.

"'I would tell them to shut up and wait to see the movie, and then judge,' said Taylor, who oversaw ABC's Emmy-winning miniseries Anne Frank. 'I'm not about to rewrite history. I'm going to explore an amazing love story that we can all learn from and, hopefully, be inspired by.'"

"Controversy's publicity, and vice versa," Taylor told the New York Times. [6]

Political Correctness

"Disney spokeswoman Zenia Mucha said the decision was necessary because it's 'not appropriate for Disney, a family entertainment company, to be the distributor of a politically charged movie in an election year.'"

However, this was the Disney/ABC position in 2004, when the Walt Disney Company decided to "block its Miramax subsidiary from distributing" Michael Moore's forthcoming Fahrenheit 9/11, "a purportedly damning critique of the Bush administration's responses and secretive allegiances regarding the 9.11 disaster," Jeff Wells wrote 2004 in movie poop shoot Hollywood.

Partisanship

Republican Ad Echoes Path Theme

The new Progress for America TV ad "The War on Terror" places "a sharp focus on the War on Terror" and, Dave Johnson points out in the September 10, 2006, Seeing the Forest, repeats a Path to 9/11 theme:

"Many times before 9/11 al Queda attacked America and we took little action."

A Politically-Motivated 9/11 Commissioner/Consultant

Of the two co-chairs of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, only Republican New Jersey Governor Thomas H. Kean served as a consultant on the project; Democratic Co-Chair Lee H. Hamilton did not. [7]

According to a September 6, 2006, Boston Globe article by Suzanne C. Ryan, Kean said at a press conference held summer 2006 in Pasadena, California, that the 9/11 Commission "had presented 41 recommendations to make Americans safer" and that he was "hoping" The Path to 9/11 "will have a political impact and inspire Americans to demand that their congressmen pass all 41 recommendations. 'We've got some legislation that's passed, but it's been very slow in the implementation. We have other legislation that hasn't yet been passed. All of it is necessary to help prevent another attack'," Kean said.

Movie Promo to and by right-wing media

Rush Limbaugh, who says he is a "personal friend" of Nowrasteh's, has promoted the movie on his show. [8]

Publicists for the movie sent advance copies of the film to conservative media figures and pundits like right-wing U.S. News & World Report pundit Michael Barone [9] and Los Angeles County Attorney and Pattericoâ??s Pontifications author Justin Levine, who called the movie "free of political spin, politically correct whitewashing and partisan wrangling" and "one of the best made-for-televison movies seen in decades... The Clinton administration will likely go ballistic over this film." In its politically-spin-free way, Patterico pontificates, the film also "lays out viscerally powerful arguments in favor of the Patriot Act and airport profiling." [10]

Director David L. Cunningham stated that "we are also being accused of being a left-wing movie that bashes Bush", but an early September search by Center for Media and Democracy Research Director Sheldon Rampton on blog search site Technorati showed 260 references, largely from conservative websites, that were uniform in their praise of the movie. Rampton also found no left-wing pundits or bloggers who were given an advance copy of the movie (though Salon.com was apparently given one).[11]

The "Untitled History Project"

YWAM Project

Columnist Max Blumenthal brought into question the involvement of The Film Institute in the miniseries in his September 8, 2006, "Discover the Secret Right-Wing Network Behind ABC's 9/11 Deception" in The Huffington Post and his September 11, 2006, "ABC 9/11 Docudrama's Right-Wing Roots" in The Nation.

According to a cached file [see note below for access info] from the website of Mark & Krista Harris—"full-time missionaries with [the Christian evangelical organization] Youth With A Mission [12], they are part of the YWAM vision to release waves of young people to cover the continents with the love of Christ". The Untitled History Project is the "first project" of The Film Institute, "a new auxiliary branch of Youth With A Mission focused on [transforming] film and television from the inside out. ... it is already being called the television event of the decade and not one second has been put to film yet. Talk about great expectations!," they wrote. "Our goal is to help filmmakers, actors, technicians, etc. realize their God given potential and purpose in perhaps the most influential sphere of modern culture - film and television."

The Film Institute, founded by "The Path to 9/11"'s director David L. Cunningham, missionary Mark Harris, and "others", is a "new site YWAM Woodcrest is working on in tandem with believers in the Hollywood film industry. It will provide links, information, news and prayer requests for film-industry missionaries who desire to work through Hollywood to see it transformed." [13][14]

Note: To access the "Mark & Krista Harris" page, click here, then click on "Cached".

Cyrus Nowrasteh on the "terror war", Michael Moore, and more

When asked to comment on "specific policies and strategies" needed "to win this terror war", Nowrasteh replied that the Patriot Act was "a huge first step. We need to watch our borders and watch our 'allies' like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan—as well as our enemies. And I support anything we can do to assist those Iranian people who wish to join the civilized world." Nowrasteh's family fled Iran after the Islamic revolution of 1979. [15]

Nowrasteh, "is an unabashed conservative," Think Progress's Nico Pitney wrote September 1, 2006. "Last year, Nowrasteh spoke on a panel titled, 'Rebels With a Cause: How Conservatives Can Lead Hollywoodâ??s Next Paradigm Shift.' He has described Michael Moore as 'an out of control socialist weasel,' and conducted interviews with right-wing websites like FrontPageMag."

However, Pitney wrote, the "problem isnâ??t that Nowrasteh is conservative. The problem is that Nowrasteh and ABC are representing 'The Path to 9/11' as an unbiased historical drama." (emphasis added)

When asked in an exclusive interview dated "September 2006" with Foreign Policy, which is published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, whether he "[felt] a responsibility for avoiding inaccuracies or conflation? Donâ??t you think you have misled people?", Nowrasteh responded: "No, I think the hubbub is because we got to the truth. ABC was anticipating an attack from the Republicans. No one expected an attack from where we got it."

When asked "How many parts truth and how many parts fiction is the movie?", Nowrasteh responded: "Iâ??m not going to answer that. Ultimately, and Iâ??ve found this with every docudrama Iâ??ve done, people in the same room at the exact same moment during a major historical incident can have completely different versions of what happened. Itâ??s the Rashomon effect. We have tried to be as accurate as possible. There are numerous attorneys who vetted this material. The chairman of the 9/11 Commission himself signed off on the movie."

Finally, when asked "Did you expect the reaction to be as strong as it has been?", Nowrasteh responded: "No, this was a witch hunt. It was like a national book burning. Itâ??s Salem all over again."

The Swift Boat Connection

"Under pressure about his institutional ties to the conservative movement" [16], on September 12, 2006, Nowrasteh told "the right-wing evangelical publication" WorldNetDaily that Path "had no political agenda", Max Blumenthal reported September 12, 2006, in The Huffington Post.

But, Blumenthal wrote, both "ABC and Nowrasteh have yet to answer for the admission" by Lt. Col. Robert B. "Buzz" Patterson (USAF Ret.) that "significant portions of his anti-Clinton attack books were incorporated into Nowrasteh's script."

Additionally, WorldNetDaily's Art Moore wrote September 8, 2006, that in an interview, Patterson told Moore that Nowrasteh "called him" "in frustration" the morning of September 1, 2006, "explaining he had used Patterson's book Dereliction of Duty as a source for the drama" and that he was "[frustrated] after network executives under a heavy barrage of criticism from former administration officials began pressing for changes to the script."

"Later that day," Moore wrote, "Nowrasteh brought a preview copy of The Path to 9/11 to Patterson for him to view at home. Patterson, who says he has talked with the director seven or eight times since then, also received a phone call from an ABC senior vice president, Quinn Taylor." (See below.)

Moore wrote that, reached by phone at his home in Southern California, Nowrasteh "affirmed to WND he consulted with Patterson and gave him a preview of the drama."

Christian public relations firm WDC Media's Chad Groening reported September 12, 2006, that when Nowrasteh "asked him about the accuracy of the events" in the miniseries, Patterson "replied it was a very accurate portrayal of the events."

And, "Who is Patterson?," Blumenthal asks. "He is a former military aide to President Bill Clinton who exploited his brief, low-level experience in the White House to ingratiate himself with the far-right."

Patterson's second book, Reckless Disregard, was used during U.S. presidential election, 2004 as a "centerpiece of the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's campaign to undermine Sen. John Kerry's military record in Vietnam," Blumenthal wrote.

Patterson is a board member of Move America Forward, "a right-wing group that mounted a PR campaign claiming that Saddam Hussein did indeed have WMD's, and falsely claimed a photograph that was later revealed to have been taken in Turkey was a snapshot of a Baghdad pacified by US military forces," Blumenthal wrote.

Patterson is also Chief Operating Officer of the David Horowitz Freedom Center and was a member of the 2005 "Truth Tour" to Iraq created by "the Republican Party-affiliated public relations firm Russo Marsh & Rogers (RM+R)." [17]

CBS on ABC

"CBS Corp. Chairman Les Moonves added his voice to the controversy over rival ABC's miniseries The Path to 9/11. Speaking at a luncheon of the Hollywood Radio & TV Society in Beverly Hills. While remarking that he didn't want to second-guess Robert Iger, his counterpart at the Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, Moonves said, 'When you do drama based on fact, you have to be careful -- especially on something as sensitive as 9/11.' He said he believed that the network 'got partially misled' by the producers of the miniseries, several of whom have ties to conservative groups."—contactmusic.com, September 13, 2006. [18]

Clinton administration aides' reaction

In the September 7, 2006, Washington Post, Howard Kurtz reported—in what he characterized as a "preemptive strike"—that top officials of the Clinton administration say the docudrama "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.'"

"Berger said in an interview that ABC is 'certainly trying to create the impression that this is realistic, but it's a fabrication'," Kurtz wrote. "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."

Facts and Fiction

"Swiftboating 9/11"

On September 7, 2006, User "Ed from Atlanta Georgia" left the following comment on the IMDb.com page for The Path to 9/11: "'swiftboating' 9/11"

"Regardless of ones political leanings, I think it is despicable for 9/11 to be fictionalized and history rewritten simply for political gain. Does ABC have no shame? Are the nearly 3000 lost souls of that horrific day just political tools, now?
"I have no problem with a FACTUAL documentary on the events leading up to 9/11. There is plenty of blame to go around, to both democratic and republican administrations. Telling the truth is always a great way to go. But to completely falsify information, and then LIE about falsifying it, especially about an event still so painful to many people, is just way below acceptable.
"I seem to recall when CBS tried to 'fictionalize' a Reagan 'docudrama', the conservatives and republicans were so incensed that the program was finally pulled. Are those same people going to be equally incensed about this 'swiftboating' debacle?"

Trade Reviews

International Broadcast Controversies

Why Not Cancel Path to 9/11?

"Yes, the sections that portray the Clinton Administration bungling the capture and/or murder of Osama bin Laden are unconscionably irresponsible and historically inaccurate (just ask Madeleine Albright, or Sandy Berger, or President Clinton himself -- they were there); and certainly ABC should excise these egregiously reckless portions of the movie before it airs—which I presume they are doing, even as I write this post," Bruce Kluger wrote September 9, 2006, in The Huffington Post.

"But the reason the film itself should not be cancelled is because it includes scene after scene that those of us who deplore this Administration will want the rest of America to see," Kluger said.

External links

Blogs

Background

Profiles

Articles & Commentary

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