Report: ABC agrees to edit "Path to 9/11" after phone call from Clinton

I’ve got more coming on this but I have to scramble on the Bin Laden thing. Here’s the source — the Ostroy Report, which bills itself as “a fresh, aggressive answer to the powerful Right Wing spin machine.” So good luck with that.

Link via the lovely KP, who’s having herself a full-blown episode over this. She complained to me last night, in fact, that she couldn’t sleep because of it. Via e-mail, I mean.

Updates coming here later. Check back.

Update: Sure looks like Ostroy was right. From the Chicago Tribune:

ABC toned down a scene that involved Clinton’s national security adviser, Samuel “Sandy” Berger, declining to give the order to kill bin Laden, according to a person involved with the film who declined to be identified. “That sequence has been the focus of attention,” the source said.

The network also decided that the credits would say the film is based “in part” on the 9/11 panel report, rather than “based on” the report, as the producers originally intended.

Update: I promised updates. Here’s a description of the scene that caused the uproar, from today’s NY Post:

CIA operatives working with Afghani anti-al Qaeda fighter Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance who was assassinated by bin Laden days before 9/11, gather on a hill near bin Laden’s residence at Tarnak Farms – the terror thug easily in their grasp.

“It’s perfect for us,” says Kirk, a composite character played by Donnie Wahlberg. But the team aborts the mission when an actor portraying [Clinton’s National Security Advisor Sandy] Berger tells them he can’t authorize a strike.

“I don’t have that authority,” the Berger character says.

“Are there any men in Washington,” Massoud asks Kirk later in the film, “or are they all cowards?”

Problem is, it never happened. It almost happened, but apparently it was George Tenet who torpedoed the operation, not the White House, and there weren’t men on Osama’s doorstep when the plug was pulled. Read this post by Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters, though, to see how close they came to devising — and executing — a plan to capture him. In fact, Sheppard’s post drew a response from none other than Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s Osama-hunting unit and last seen urging appeasement in that BBC surrender video. Scheuer says he’d always been under the impression that Berger and the National Security Council had cancelled the operation, but he can’t be sure.

Tom Kean, who was one of the heads of the 9/11 Commission and a consultant on the film, has admitted that the scene was fictionalized as a composite of the many, many counterterrorism failures that happened on Billy Jeff’s watch. Mac Ranger leafs through his copy of the 9/11 Commission Report and plucks these two killer paragraphs:

The Clinton administration had as many as four chances to kill or capture bin Laden between December 1998 and July 1999, but all the operations were scuttled because of uncertain intelligence and fears that civilians or dignitaries might be killed. In one example, in May 1999, sources provided detailed reports about bin Laden’s whereabouts in the Kandahar area over a period of five nights, but strikes were not ordered because the military was concerned about the accuracy of the reports and the risk of collateral damage, investigators found.

Having a chance to get [bin Laden] three times in 36 hours and foregoing the chance each time has made me a bit angry,” a CIA unit chief wrote to a colleague, adding that Tenet “finds himself alone at the table, with the other princip[als] basically saying ‘we’ll go along with your decision Mr. Director,’ and implicitly saying that the Agency will hang alone if the attack doesn’t get [bin Laden].”

Dorkafork finds another passage:

Before it was canceled, Schroen described it as the “best plan we are going to come up with to capture [Bin Ladin] while he is in Afghanistan and bring him to justice.” No capture plan before 9/11 ever again attained the same level of detail and preparation. The tribals’ reported readiness to act diminished. And Bin Ladin’s security precautions and defenses became more elaborate and formidable.

At this time, 9/11 was more than three years away. It was the duty of Tenet and the CIA leadership to balance the risks of inaction against jeopardizing the lives of their operatives and agents. And they had reason to worry about failure: millions of dollars down the drain; a shoot-out that could be seen as an assassination; and, if there were repercussions in Pakistan, perhaps a coup. The decisions of the U.S. government in May 1998 were made, as Berger has put it, from the vantage point of the driver looking through a muddy windshield moving forward, not through a clean rearview mirror.

That windshield was always pretty muddy for George “Slam Dunk” Tenet, wasn’t it?

I agree with Dean: they shouldn’t be messing with fictionalized scenes when it comes to 9/11. There’s already far too much of that about thanks to the Truthers. And as Dean says, ultimately this lets Clinton off the hook for his real failures. People who don’t know better will hear that a scene was changed in the movie because it portrayed Clinton as weaker on terrorism than he was — and they’ll conclude that he wasn’t weak. How weak was he, in fact? Here’s your quote of the day, courtesy of Barnett:

“You know, it would scare the shit out of Al Qaeda if suddenly a bunch of black ninjas rappelled out of helicopters into their camp.”

That’s weak.

Let’s spare a thought, though, for our friends on the left, whose justifiable paranoia about being seen as weak on terrorism has led them to ask not only that the offending scene be edited, but that the whole damned miniseries be shelved. Never mind that the executive producer’s given money to Clinton, or that, according to Jamie Poniewozik of Time, it’s much more damning of Bush than Clinton. There’s a legacy at stake here.

Me, I’m just glad we get to spend the fifth anniversary of the attacks pointing fingers and watching dramas chronicling American failures and recriminations instead of, say, programs about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the threat it represents. I’ll join the Dem campaign to have “Path to 9/11” pulled — if ABC will let MEMRI fill those five hours of airtime. Can I get some bipartisan love for that idea?

No, of course I can’t.

Update: Spruiell has video of Tucker Carlson punching holes in anthropomorphic weasel David Brock’s complaints about the miniseries.