Comments by Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism czar under Presidents Clinton and Bush, and current ABC News consultant:
As someone who was directly involved in almost every event depicted in the fictionalized docudrama, "The Path to 9-11," I believe it is an egregious distortion that does a deep disservice both to history and to those in both the Clinton and Bush administrations who are depicted.
Sadly, ABC's Entertainment Division hired a production company and screen writer who were apparently unqualified to deal with this historically important subject matter. That error appears to have been compounded by the failure of some of the docudrama's consultants to insure that the account was accurate. Some of the most outrageous scenes were removed after a recent senior level review. What remains, however, is not the true story as told by the 9-11 Commission.
Although I am not one to easily believe in conspiracy theories and have spent a great deal of time debunking them, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the errors in this screen play are more than the result of dramatization and time compression. There is throughout the screenplay a consistent bias and distortion seeking to portray senior Clinton Administration officials as holding back the hard charging CIA, FBI, and military officers who would otherwise have prevented 9-11.
The exact opposite is true. From the President, to all of his White House team, and NSC Principals (Lake, Berger, Albright, Tenet, Reno) there was a common fixation with terrorism, al qaeda, and bin Ladin. The President approved every counter-terrorism operation presented to him, including many that CIA proved unable or unwilling to implement. He increased counter-terrorism spending by 400% and initiated the first homeland security program in forty years. Even though the US had taken relatively few casualties from al qaeda at the time, the President repeatedly authorized the use of lethal force against bin Ladin and his deputies and personally requested the US military to develop plans for "commando operations" against
them. Even though he knew the timing of an attack aimed at killing bin Ladin would be labeled by critics as a political diversion, Clinton decided to follow the advice of his national security team and pay the price politically.
All of us who worked on these issues, then and now, hold some responsibility for the failures to stop al qaeda. I bear that burden every day.
But if history is to know where to assign some of that culpability, it should not be guided by this fictionalization. It might better focus on leaders of the FBI who held back John O'Neill, leaders of the CIA's Clandestine Service whose risk aversion prevented the Counter Terrorism Center from doing its job, and senior generals who strongly urged the Commander-in-Chief not to use our military to go after the al qaeda leaders in Afghanistan. Somehow, all of that is missing from this not too subtle televised politicization of history.
As is so often the case, the best advice about how to think about these things comes not from people like me or others in Washington, but from the families of the victims of 9-11. Several family members issued this statement, which I strongly commend to all:
"Families of September 11 believes the best way to honor those who were lost is to make sure that what happened to them never happens again. As such, we must understand exactly what took place, and not allow "entertainers" to promote misleading or incorrect information as fact to the public.
If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Any depiction of 9/11 that is not accurate and factual propagates myths, myths that may cause us future harm.
In order to make our country safer and more secure, we owe it to those who were lost to acknowledge that which took place, so that we can ensure it never happens again."