The Smear Campaign Against ABC's 'The Path to 9/11'

As the fifth anniversary of the attacks on 9/11 approaches, Americans are once again facing the horrors surrounding this event, and the ominous portent it conveyed. Yet, for some reason, one group of citizens has chosen to commemorate this solemn occasion by protesting an ABC miniseries documenting the history of this calamity.

As amazing as it might seem, the top brass in the liberal blogosphere's 'Netroots' have been frantically writing the past couple of days about 'The Path to 9/11,' declaring to their readers that this docudrama is 'a piece of fiction,' and that ABC's airing it represents 'gross negligence.'

At the heart of the controversy is the belief universally shared by these Michael Moore devotees that the ABC program in question doesn't paint a very pretty picture of their Hero—in—Chief, William Jefferson Clinton. Yet, it appears that none of the disgruntled commentators has actually seen the miniseries — a fact that some hypocritically suggest represents a part of the conspiracy — and, therefore, are coming to conclusions about the program's contents from reviews by others.

Take for example Markos Moulitsas, the outspoken proprietor of Daily Kos. On September 5, he posted a blog  at his website entitled 'ABC's Work of Fiction':

ABC's piece of fiction, written by Rush Limbaugh's personal friend and marketed heavily in wingnut circles, bills itself as "objective" and a "docudrama". It includes the following scene, as recounted by Limbaugh.

That's some truly objective review—work there, isn't it? Wouldn't every movie and television critic have an easy job if all he or she had to do was reference the opinions of others rather than actually see the film or program in question? Imagine the time you'd save!

Maybe more importantly, when did liberals start taking the word of Rush Limbaugh as the Gospel truth? Isn't he wrong about everything in their view?

Yet, that wasn't the only cardinal sin of journalism committed by Moulitzas. After copying the text from Limbaugh's depiction of this scene, Kos then listed reasons why the miniseries was presenting falsehoods. Nowhere did Markos inform the reader that this analysis was apparently made by former counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke as reported by another Netroot member, Think Progress.  

Did Kos hide this from his readers due to the precarious credibility of Clarke, and the fact that his opinion on events leading up to 9/11 have come under serious question by many of his colleagues? In particular, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit — and no friend of the Bush administration! — Michael Scheuer, was not shy about his disgust for Clarke in a November 2004 Weekly Standard article.

Scheuer thinks Clarke is a risk—averse poseur who didn't do enough to fight bin Laden prior to September 11, 2001. At his breakfast with reporters, Scheuer said that on 10 separate occasions his unit, codename "Alec," provided key policymakers with information that could've lead to the killing or capture of Osama bin Laden.

"In each of those 10 instances, the senior policymaker in charge, whether it was Sandy Berger, Richard Clarke, or George Tenet,"

resisted taking action, afraid it would result in collateral damage or a backlash on the Arab street. According to Scheuer, Clarke's story has changed in the time since.

Regardless of Clarke's lack of credibility, as a result of his position on what he perceived were inaccuracies in the ABC miniseries, TP's editor, Judd Legum — who, like Kos, has apparently also not seen this 'offensive' program for himself — concluded:

In short, this scene — which makes the incendiary claim that the Clinton administration passed on a surefire chance to kill or catch bin Laden — never happened. It was completely made up by [screenwriter] Nowrasteh.

Really? Well, pages 110 through 115 of the 9/11 Commission report quite disagreed. In this section, subtitled 'The CIA Develops a Capture Plan,' the commissioners chronicled a 1997 — 1998 strategy to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan:

A compound of about 80 concrete or mud—brick buildings surrounded by a 10—foot wall, Tarnak Farms was located in an isolated desert area on the outskirts of the Kandahar airport. CIA officers were able to map the entire site, identifying the houses that belonged to Bin Ladin's wives and one where Bin Ladin himself was most likely to sleep. Working with the tribals, they drew up plans for the raid. They ran two complete rehearsals in the United States during the fall of 1997.

By early 1998, planners at the Counterterrorist Center were ready to come back to the White House to seek formal approval.

Does it sound like Nowrasteh 'completely made up' this plan? As to who stopped this covert action, the Commission wasn't sure:

Impressions vary as to who actually decided not to proceed with the operation. Clarke told us that the CSG [Counterterrorist Security Group headed by Clarke] saw the plan as flawed. He was said to have described it to a colleague on the NSC staff as 'half—assed' and predicted the principals would not approve it. 'Jeff' thought the decision had been made at the cabinet level. Pavitt thought that it was Berger's doing, though perhaps on Tenet's advice. Tenet told us that given the recommendation of his chief operations officers, he alone had decided to 'turn off' the operation. He had simply informed Berger, who had not pushed back. Berger's recollection was similar. He said the plan was never presented to the White House for a decision.

Hmmm. So, the 9/11 Commission wasn't really sure who was responsible for putting the kibosh on this plan. However, given Clarke's lack of credibility, and the fact that Sandy Berger was so intent on covering up the missteps of the Clinton administration that he actually stole documents from the National Archive just prior to testifying before the Commission, their take on this matter seems easily discounted.

Yet, questioning the accuracy of this miniseries wasn't the only strategy involved in this smear campaign. Another high—ranking member of the Netroots, Americablog, posted a piece  on September 4 entitled 'GOP Congress Blocked Clinton Push For Anti—Terror Legislation.' The author used a July 30, 1996, article from to make the point:

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R—Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, emerged from the meeting and said,

"These are very controversial provisions that the [Clinton] White House wants. Some they're not going to get." ....[Hatch] also said he had some problems with the president's proposals to expand wiretapping.

However, this posting, which was plastered all over the liberal blogosphere, including being the lead link at the September 5 Raw Story, omitted some key facts. First, on April 24, 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which was the most comprehensive terrorism bill ever enacted by Congress up to that point. Contrary to the uninformed implications of Americablog, this was accomplished with tremendous support from Republicans who controlled both chambers at that time.

Also overlooked by the Netroots concerning this issue was that there was a bipartisan effort to stop the passage of this bill. As depicted by this December 6, 1995, letter to the then leaders of the House, disparate groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Rifle Association, the Cato Institute, defense lawyers, and law enforcement organizations all rallied to block the enactment of this legislation.

In addition, the restrictions to this bill, which were approved by the House on March 13, 1996, were passed in a bipartisan fashion by a margin of 246 to 171, with 68 Democrats voting in favor. As such, exclusively blaming Republicans for watering down this legislation is nothing less than absurd.

Another issue missed in Americablog's lather was that this request by President Clinton for stronger antiterrorist legislation came two days after the Atlanta Olympics pipe—bombing, and less than two weeks after TWA flight 800 exploded over New York. As a result, within three days of this 1996 CNN report now making its way across the blogosphere, two antiterrorism bills were proposed in the House: one by Bud Schuster (R—Pennsylvania), and; a second by Henry Hyde (R—Illinois).

So much for Republicans blocking Clinton's antiterror legislation.

Noel Sheppard is a frequent contributor to The American Thinker. He is also contributing editor for the Media Research Center's, and contributing writer to its Business & Media Institute. Noel welcomes feedback.