This film is banned in the United States.
The Path to 9/11 was originally released as a 2-part miniseries in 2006 on ABC, produced by ABC and Disney, written by Cyrus Nowrasteh. It’s a docudrama that recreates/dramatizes the events from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (which itself is dramatized in a made for tv HBO film titled Path to Paradise) to the actual 9/11 incident itself, connecting the dots between both events in the process. Here’s why all of those are significant. Cyrus Nowrasteh also directed The Stoning of Soraya M., and was one of the screenwriters for that film; that film became banned in Iran. That film was made in 2009. This film, The Path to 9/11, is currently banned in the United States. Poor Cyrus has a bad habit of getting involved in films that tend to get suppressed in one fashion or another. I mean, granted, that was only 2 times as far as I know, but that tends to be something controversial that draws a lot of eyes.
Anyway, The Path to 9/11 had a budget of $40 million, starred Harvey Keitel and Donnie Wahlberg, got nominated for 7 Emmies, and won an Emmy for Best Editing (something that will be a bit ironic as you soon will see), only aired once for its 2 night premiere in September 2006, and has never aired again or been released on VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray, or in any official digital format, whether it be Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. Disney lost a lot of money due to that decision.
So that makes one wonder, how can that be? How is it that a film/mini-series financed by Disney ABC, an emmy nominee and winner, and a film that received a respectable amount of viewers upon airing despite being on at the same time as Monday Night Football, be locked in the Disney vault never to be officially aired/released up to today?
Politics, and politicians claiming the miniseries flat out lies and fictionalizes the events depicted in the film, and the mainstream news supporting this claim and spinning the story in that way, that’s how. All of this before the film even aired for its 2 night premiere.
There’s a documentary that pretty much tells all, fittingly titled Blocking The Path to 9/11. This blog entry is basically going to condense the information that documentary provides, but it’s worth tracking it down and watching it. It can be purchased on this website.
The controversy started immediately after a pre-screening of the film in Washington DC at the National Press Club, but they could only show the first part of the miniseries. You know, because the entire miniseries ends up running at around 4 1/2 hours, which is too much time for a pre-screening. So they just showed part 1, which ran 2 1/2 hours. Now, here’s why this is significant. Prior to the film airing on ABC September 10, 2006, the amount of pressure put on ABC more or less forced them to make cuts/alterations to the film. I have seen both the edited and unedited versions of the film, and the only cuts/alterations I can find are in part 1. Part 1 of the miniseries focuses on the Clinton Administration time period, part 2 focuses on the Bush Administration time period. So, after finishing the pre-screen viewing, Richard Ben-Veniste, a Clinton attorney, and a 9/11 Commission Reporter, began verbally attacking and criticizing the film and the crew, stating how the film is historically inaccurate and portrays an unjustly negative view of Bill Clinton. Note that this is opposite of the reaction many 9/11 families had towards the film at that same showing. From there on, things got more and more insane and ridiculous until it came to a peak when a letter was written by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Charles Schumer, and Senator Byron Dorgan, who demanded that ABC either not show the film, or make cuts to the film. Failure to do so, then they would go after ABC’s broadcast license, which was slated for renewal at the time. None of them have seen the film, or so they stated publicly on mainstream news broadcasts.
Oh, and of course Bill Clinton had some negative say about the movie he had never seen as well. Just in case that needed to be pointed out. In fact, much of what Bill Clinton himself did to attack and attempt to destroy The Path to 9/11 is documented in this book Clinton in Exile, written by Carol Felsenthal.
Anyway, that’s just some of the political pressure ABC faced, along with attacks from other organizations that have ties to the Clinton Administration in one form or another. The pressure didn’t quite get bad enough that ABC was willing to not air the film and lock it up before anyone could see it (through mainstream broadcast anyway), but it did apparently get ad enough to where they made 2 edits to the film.
Edited version of first altered scene:
Unedited version of first altered scene:
Controversial sequence where they were aborted on their mission to capture Osama Bin Laden:
I should also point out that Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger, a former White House national security adviser, also spoke out against the film on CNN. He’s that guy depicted in one of those clips above, the one who cut off video feed. Now, here’s the thing. Prior to the film controversy, he faced charges of “intentionally removing and destroying copies of a classified document about the Clinton administration’s record on terrorism.”
He didn’t serve as much time as he probably should have for pulling that stunt, and on top of that, he got back into the political game later on. Justice, and media bias, all wrapped into one package.
Anyway, Scholastic, you know, that teaching/book company, was initially planning to encourage and endorse the use of this movie, The Path to 9/11, as a teaching tool for school classes, but later bowed out due to pressure from the political left.
Oh, right, and you must be wondering, what about Bush? What was the Bush administration’s view on the movie? What did they do? As far as I know, they didn’t take a stance. They did nothing. I’m also pretty sure they bitched less about Fahrenheit 9/11 than the Clintons bitched about The Path to 9/11. But I do believe George Bush actually said that he wanted more face-time on The Path to 9/11, even though part 2 of the miniseries didn’t exactly favor his administration favorably.
Anyway, so of all these complaints about the film being historically inaccurate… Actually, let’s talk about that for a minute. How many docudramas out there are historically accurate? How many are inaccurate? How many just flat out falsify events for the sake of drama? I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to conclude that most of them are probably less accurate than The Path to 9/11 is. I mean, they’re docudramas. If they wanted to aim for 100% historical accuracy, they would be documentaries. That being said, the film-makers have stated time and again that they not only tried to be as historically accurate as possible and minimize the amount of liberties taken for the sake of dramatization, but this film has an unprecedented amount of fact-checking and oversight to make sure things were gotten right. They had members from the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, and Air Traffic Control, among others, who were on set to make sure everything was historically accurate.
“The fact-checking on THE PATH TO 9/11 was of the highest standards. I would gladly put its veracity up against any docudrama ever made. In fact, over Labor Day weekend Disney/ABC brought in outside counsel to double-check the factual basis for the script (all 350 pages of annotations and their sources), and they concluded that it was rock-solid.” — Cyrus Nowrasteh
That being said, there is one thing that I know of that the docudrama did get wrong, which they admitted to in the Blocking the Path to 9/11 documentary. At the beginning of the film, one of the hijackers attempts to purchase a American Airlines ticket at the New York airport on September 11, and an alert comes up on the screen, saying that this man is potentially dangerous. But they let him have his ticket and let him go on his way despite this. That didn’t happen, at least not on that day at that airport. This happened on the same day at an earlier time in Portland, Maine for a regional airline flight that had a partnership with American Airlines. In any case, American Airlines decided to speak out against the film for this error.
But aside from that, which, come on, that’s a small error, and the message was still there that the warning signs were around but they went unheeded; aside from that, the film is fairly accurate with the events.
So with all the controversy, all the political backlash, all the media bias, all the personal attacks (you should really see the Blocking the Path to 9/11 documentary for more details), the 2-part miniseries aired on September 10, and September 11, 2006. It aired commercial-free both nights. The ABC president went from intending to air this film annually every September, to never again. This film has never aired again, has never been released in America on VHS, DVD (I heard Canada might be selling), Blu-Ray, has never had an online digital distribution (an official one anyway), there has been nothing of it since. Disney refuses to release it, or sell it to a distributor who will release it. The 10th anniversary of the film’s one and only air date comes September 10, 2016. The 15th anniversary of 9/11 comes September 11, 2016.
What about the quality of the film itself? Is it good? Is it bad? Was it worth all the controversy? Or is it just not that entertaining, and thus it would be better to read a book on the events rather than watch the 2-part miniseries? Well, that is something I will cover in the next review. Spoiler alert, you should track it down and watch it.