The Path to 9/11 Review/Analysis Part 3

Continued from part 2.

Fact-Checking
Something else to consider. Aside from the bullshit reasons for trying to keep the film off the air, and the reasons for keeping the film off of DVD/Blu-Ray distribution (so far succeeding on that front), it would be a good idea to bring up the criticisms the film is facing. Historical criticisms, and criticism on a little something else.

In the opening credits of The Path to 9/11, it states the film is based on the book The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot, and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It by John C. Miller, Michael Stone, and Chris Mitchell. In the closing credits, the film states it’s also based in part on the novels 1000 Years for Revenge by Peter Lance, and Relentless Pursuit: The DSS and the Manhunt for the Al-Qaeda Terrorists. The first bit of criticism starts with the authoring of the screenplay, mainly in regards to it unfairly ripping off one of those books, and “whitewashing” it (not in the sense of replacing characters with white actors mind you).

 

1000 Years for Revenge
So according to Peter Lance, author of the book 1000 Years for Revenge (which will be referred to as 1K-R from here on out), Cyrus Nowrasteh approached Lance stating that ABC wanted to use his book 1K-R as the main source for The Path to 9/11. Peter Lance instead sold the book rights to director of NBC Kevin Reilly. In July 2005, Lance found out about Cyrus’ involvement with the film project, which at that time was being filmed under the unofficial title “[Untitled] History Project,” something that Blocking the Path to 9/11 confirms.

Now, in July as the cameras began rolling on what ABC first called “the History Project,” something told me that I should get a look at Cyrus’s script. When I turned to the first page of “Night One,” I saw that Nowrasteh had lifted much of my book, scene by scene, dialogue for dialogue. He’d even titled the first two hours, “The Mozart of Terror,” the name I’d coined for Yousef.

But beyond the hijacking of 1000 Years, what was most galling, was how Cyrus, hungry for some book on which to hang his story, had now embraced The Cell, the very book he’d bad-mouthed to me and elevated John Miller, who was about to take a job as chief FBI flak, to a lead character.

Worse, he’d taken the hapless Det. Lou Napoli – who had
ignored Ronnie Bucca’s warnings and failed to follow the WTC bombers and turned him a lead member of the FBI posse out to stop bin Laden – a bullpen of real and fictional characters now led by John O’Neill.

Unable to legally acquire my book, Nowrasteh had simply appropriated it and used what he wanted from it and then set up The Cell with its pro FBI slant as the “based on” underlying work for his re-telling of “History.”

[…]

Finally, after months of negotiating with ABC, Larry Stein called me in December of 2005 to say that my former network had agreed to pay a settlement of $250,000.00 to acquire the mini-series rights to 1000 Years For Revenge.

But the deal contained a “non-disparagement” clause and gag order. In order to keep me from telling the real truth behind their distortion of my work, ABC would hold off paying me the final $50K until a month after The Path to 9/11 aired.
Source 1
Source 2
Source 3

Claim: The Path to 9/11 rips scenes and dialogue from 1K-R, and is based more heavily on that book than on The Cell.

Response: Well, ABC did respond to and settle with Peter Lance in response to his claims, which should say something in of itself. That being said, when reading the book The Cell, I’ve noticed plenty of narrative elements from that film that indicate that the miniseries was heavily inspired by that book. For instance, the book puts a lot of focus on an ABC news reporter (one of the author’s of the book, who is also a significant character in the miniseries) who got in past security (he knew some of the fireman and policeman) right after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to get a glimpse at the inside while firemen and bomb disposal units were doing their work inside. He shows up at other points, such as when the blind sheik gets arrested, interviews Bin Laden, and shoots footage from ground zero during the actual 9/11 incident. This is a character that 1K-R does not focus on.

Plus The Cell mentions that Ramzi Yousef (the one who was mainly responsible for carrying out the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing) looked upon the towers across the Jersey shore after his bombing failed to topple both of them. Keep in mind that The Cell was written before 1K-R (in fact, Peter Lance mentions the book in his footnotes, though he also mentions that it’s a book that “told only one side of the story” (Introduction, p.2).

And from what sections I have read from the book, I agree, scenes are lifted from the book and put into the movie, which fully supports Lance’s claim.

Anyway, when all is said and done, the above issue is more of an issue with giving credit where credit is due, which isn’t something that the final product in of itself should be bashed for. The main objection Peter Lance has against The Path to 9/11 is less the fact that they took his work without permission (ie plagiarized), and more that they distorted “facts” that Lance laid out in his novel that he not only wanted in the film, but that he says Cyrus claimed to have also wanted included in the film. I’m not sure if Lance’s claims on Cyrus intending to include such information is true or not, only they know the truth about that, and I haven’t seen anything from Cyrus that confirms or denies these claims. But I can take a look at the events Lance wanted included in the screenplay.

Claim: “the story of FBI special agent Nancy Floyd who’d almost stopped Yousef as he built the first WTC bomb in 1992 only to have her career tanked by superiors in the NYO”Source

Response: The 1K-R novel focuses on 3 major characters, Ramzi Yousef, a firefighter named Ronnie Bucca, and then FBI agent Nancy Floyd. Ramzi aside, Nancy and Ronnie had reduced roles in the film compared to 1K-R, which disappointed Lance as he feels their stories must be told in greater depth, especially since he has made them central characters in his nonfiction novel. That being said, Nancy Floyd’s character is in the film, she appears roughly 15-16 minutes in. Interestingly enough, her character was also in the film Path to Paradise (played by Marcia Gay Harden), but she is not mentioned in the novel The Cell. That in of itself does support the claim that The Cell doesn’t tell all sides of the story.  Anyway, the film pretty much shows about as much of Nancy as 1K-R described, except the part of her career following the trial of Yousef.  In the novel, it states that Nancy didn’t receive any reward, had an OPR investigation done on her, and she was left hung out to dry.  Most likely because she bad mouthed her superiors (who pretty much deserved it), and that bad mouthing was recorded on an audio device and used in the trial hearings by the defense.  Should the film have included that moment?  Probably, considering how much screwing over was done.  But that’s hardly a good enough reason to say that this film shouldn’t be seen.

Claim: “the Ronnie Bucca tragedy. An ex-Green Beret and firefighter with the FDNY’s elite Rescue One, Bucca later became a fire marshal and had top secret security clearance via an Army Reserve M.P. unit where he was posted at The Defense Intelligence Analysis Center at Bolling AFB in D.C.”Source

Story details: http://peterlance.com/wordpress/?p=1182

Response:As far as I can tell, Ronnie Bucca isn’t mentioned in the film (or in The Cell for that matter).  And as far as I know, he was a man who fit the above description who had taken it upon himself to do his own personal investigation following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and might have come across information that could’ve been useful towards avoiding the 9/11 incident.  But honestly, that message is already included in the movie.  The CIA and FBI side of the story is already enough to show that things were happening that the government should’ve taken more seriously, but didn’t, and Ronnie’s story wouldn’t have added much to that.  That being said, there is another story that should take much higher priority than Ronnie’s in terms of what the film tries to accomplish, and that’s Able Danger, a U.S. organization that had proof of at least 4 of the hijackers, that they were planning the 9/11 event, and had this information available in the year 2000, but the higher ups ignored them.  It’s the most unbelievable part of the whole story, but that wasn’t included in the film.  For what reason, probably because it wasn’t mentioned in either The Cell or 1K-R.  Peter Lance would include it in his later book Triple Cross, but it was probably too early to get into that particular plot development.  It’s worth looking into.

Anyway, all of that aside, I’d like to lay down an alternative viewpoint regarding Peter Lance’s involvement with the project, and his book’s influence. I don’t doubt that he and Cyrus met and talked about it, and I don’t doubt that his book was influential in the role of the film. What I do doubt is the extent of his victim role. He claims he was less in it for the money and more in it for getting the story told, for getting the message out. And yet, he decided to sell the right to his book to NBC instead, and hoped they would get an alternative film/miniseries done that would be faithful to his work. His argument against ABC, claiming they were ripping off his book with their screenplay, is true in that Cyrus also wanted as much of the whole story told as possible, but they could no longer secure the rights to the book Cyrus (may have) recommended. At the time, ABC was shooting the film under the title “Untitled History Project”. They didn’t want Peter Lance bringing this up publicly and exposing the project while they were still filming, so they went ahead and gave him money and told him to shutup. This is because, according to the documentary Blocking The Path to 9/11, it was given that unofficial title for security and safety reasons for the cast and crew. I mean, think about it, what would happen if word got out that they were making a 9/11 docudrama during the filming process? The source above states he wrote a letter to ABC citing his objections and claim of slander in October 2005. ABC relented and gave him a settlement with the gag order in December 2005. The filming of The Path to 9/11 finished in the summer of 2006 (as stated in the documentary Blocking the Path to 9/11). That was likely the primary reason for the gag order, yet Lance speaks out as if big bad Disney ABC were flexing its muscles solely just because they didn’t want any badmouthing. That being said, I wouldn’t doubt that was another reason for the gag order. Plus Disney has a bad habit throughout its history of ripping off sources for a watered down version of a story without citation (Aladdin vs. the original version of The Thief and the Cobbler, The Lion King vs. Hamlet and Kimba the White Lion). The security risk for the cast and crew should not be ignored in any case.

 

The Big Question
Was The Path to 9/11 wrong to have that 3 minute sequence that shows how they failed to capture Bin Laden? There are claims that this incident did not happen, that they never got that close, and that Bill Clinton did everything he could to capture/kill Bin Laden, and even went so far as to draw up an invasion plan for Afghanistan that could be used after his presidency had ended so the next president could utilize it to finish what he started.

Claim: No event like the scene portrayed in the movie with them getting that close to killing/capturing Bin Laden ever happened.

Response: Hank Crumpton says otherwise, according to this 60 Minutes interview done in 2012. Hank Crumpton is a former CIA officer.

Claim: Bill Clinton did everything he could to capture/kill Bin Laden during his presidency, from 1998 and onwards.

Response:He did everything he could so long as it wouldn’t hurt his political chances.  This is backed up by the novels, and by documentaries such as National Geographic’s Inside 9/11, and On Native Soil.

Claim: Bill Clinton was responsible for the drawing up of the invasion plan into the Middle East for dealing with the terrorists and Bin Laden just before his presidency ended.

Response: I thought I remembered seeing this scene depicted in the film. Apparently I thought wrong, unless I overlooked it somehow. But anyway, more accurately, Clinton had an official draw up an invasion plan for the next president to implement since he didn’t want to do it during his last year in office. They could’ve included that, and to be honest, I kinda wished they did too. But even if they did, the haters would still probably hate, claiming that the film would’ve made Clinton look like a pussy for not invading during his last year with those invasion plans, forcing the next president to go along with it. In any case, the message remains the same even without this event. Clinton wanted to deal with Al Qaeda, but was iffy when it came to actually doing so on various occasions (not all occasions mind you, some various ones). And if there was a chance things could go wrong, he didn’t want to be viewed in a worse light than he already was with the whole affair scandal and the botched bombing run. So he handed the responsibility over to the next in line, who didn’t act on it. Either way, both sides share the blame.

 

Response to Frank Vyan Walton’s post “ABC shelves Path to 9/11 DVD. Yay!”
Boy does this blog have a lot to get off of its chest on how much is despises The Path to 9/11, and pretty much Republicans in general. Aside from bringing up the “intellectual theft” that was discussed above, he brings up these issues which I will respond to, especially since he thinks these are good enough reason to keep this movie off the shelves:

Claim: The film essentially defamed John O’Neill, Richard Clarke, George Tenet, Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger and Bill Clinton by manufacturing failures of inaction on their part which didn’t take place and ignoring many successful aggressive anti-terrorist actions.

Response:See above in response to the claims “Bill Clinton did everything he could…” and “No event like the scene portrayed in the movie…”  As for John O’Neill, what are you even talking about?  Did you even watch the movie?  I’d say they did the opposite of defaming him.  Same goes for Richard Clarke.  Sandy Berger, that piece of shit deserved to get defamed after stealing and destroying classified documents (Source), nevermind the fact that he was involved in at least one of those “close call” incidents according to Tom Kean in the documentary Blocking the Path to 9/11.  As for the others, in what way, may I ask, were they unjustly defamed?

Claim: The rival book (as compared to 1K-R) “The Cell, ” is essentially a “Disney-ized” version of similar events brought up in 1K-R, but was so white-washed it was “Like telling the story of John Dillinger’s take down without mentioning FBI agent Melvin Purvis.”

Response:That’s true, up to a point.  Yeah that book left out Nancy Floyd, and Ahmed Shah Massoud.  But you know what else?  1K-R doesn’t cover ABC reporter John Miller to the extent that The Cell does.  It also goes too far into conspiracy theory territory when it brings up Flight TWA 800, stating that Yousef may have been involved with bombing the plane, when it wasn’t a bomb at all that took it down.  In fact, The Cell goes into great detail on how panicked everyone was about that flight, the conspiracy theories that abounded, and how the FBI stayed on that case longer than it should to make sure a logical scientific explanation was put forth after much time and research to explain how it exploded and why it went down the way it did (the building of a computer simulation was involved).  Plus Peter Lance is way too hard on the FBI, citing their failures.  Look, there’s negligence by the higher ups, then there’s the whole “in hindsight” logic that Lance constantly uses.  The Cell offers another perspective, on how the FBI agents on the ground were scrambling and doing the best they could with what they had even though they were underfunded and understaffed (particularly in the arabic translation department).  That they could’ve done their jobs better if they were better financed, had more staff/support, and more cooperation and understanding between their higher ups and other agencies such as the CIA.  Both books have their pros and cons.

 

The blog states that the below “facts” were not included in The Path to 9/11. I will respond on if they were or were not actually included in the film, and if they were not, if they should have been (discussing if they were in fact factual).

Claim: Bill Clinton personally authorized each and every aggressive action suggested to stop and/or contain Osama Bin Laden (Source)

Response:If that’s true, then he sure dropped the ball on that didn’t he?  Anyway, the film did say the attacks were authorized, it was the matter of actually pulling the trigger that became questionable, especially when civilians were around the target.

Claim: Under Clinton the CIA had standing orders to Kill Bin Laden (9/11 Commission Report)

Response:Well yeah, that’s true, and the film supports this.  But there’s a difference between having orders to kill bin Laden, and actually taking the necessary steps to kill bin Laden.

Claim: No U.S. military personnel were ever on the ground in Afghanistan prior to 9/11 and ever had visual contact with Bin Laden (Source)

Response:The “visual contact with Bin Laden” part could be true, but not having military personnel on the ground is not, unless by military that doesn’t include those who were on the ground attempting to capture/kill Bin Laden along with Ahmed Shah Massoud.  In which case, then yeah, no military, just FBI or CIA agents.

Claim: Bill Clinton specifically ordered Joint Chiefs Chairman Hugh Shelton to develop a plan to put Special Forces on the ground in Bin Laden’s camps, but it was the Pentagon who balked – not the White House. (Source)

Response:Alright, yeah, I don’t recall the film having that bit in it.  I don’t think it mentioned the Special Forces idea in general, aside from a brief discussion where they remark that a president has never declared a war during the last year in office, which is essentially what deploying Special Forces means.  But yeah, they could’ve included that, but they didn’t.  Again, I seriously doubt that this is grounds for keeping this film hidden away.  Consider a scene during part 2 where they ask Condoleezza Rice on a few occasions for assistance with retaliating against Al Qaeda, and retaliating against the USS Cole attack, but their pleas are once again ignored, only now by another administration that seems to give less of a damn despite the warning signs.

Claim: The Development of the Armed Predator, under Clinton, to address the logistical problems which plagued Special Forces in Afghanistan

Response:The Predator and discussions of arming it is included in the movie, during the Clinton Administration period.

Claim: The fact that the Armed Predator, though ready, was not even discussed for deployment by the WH until Clarke’s “urgent” meeting finally took place on Sept 5th.

Response: Ok.  The whole Predator scenario was put in the movie, mentioning how they wanted it to become armed so they could’ve taken out Bin Laden when they had the chance (budget).  And again, I think they included enough of it in the movie.

Claim: Richard Clarke’s urgent Jan 2001 warnings about Al Qaeda to Condi Rice and call for an immediate Principles Meeting which was ignored for 9 months.

Response:Well, I’d say they condensed this whole thing in a scene where he meets with Rice, who ignores him and has him re-assigned to another sector (Cyber-Security).

Claim: The Bush Administration doing nothing in response to the U.S.S. Cole bombing once Al Qaeda had been confirmed as the culprits in early 2001.

Response:That’s true.  But Clinton didn’t really do much either.  Both administrations failed their because the Yemenis wouldn’t assist them.  Hell, they hindered them.  And neither administration wanted to get too aggressive with investigating it or else risk rising tensions and potential war with Yemenis.  This is covered in The Cell by the way.

Claim: The Midnight Ride to Condi’s Office by Tenet, Cofer Black and Clark to warn that something big “10 on a scale of 1 to 10” was coming, which was ignored. (Source)

Response:There’s already plenty of instances in the film about pleas to the higher ups falling on deaf ears.

Claim: The August 6th President’s Day Brief. (Source)

Response: The film did not focus on either president enough to have an actor portray them, only relying on news footage. There was no reason to give Bush such special attention compared to Clinton. That being said, one could argue that this should’ve been mentioned second-hand by some participant of the brief, such as by Condoleezza Rice or some such person.

Claim: George Tenet’s personal briefing of Bush in August at the Crawford ranch to reemphasize the PDB and make clear that “They’re Coming Here”

Response:Just how many of these “pleas falling on deaf ears” instances do you fucking want in this movie?

 

Oh, and one other thing mentioned by Walton:
“I myself regret that “Path to 9/11” won’t be available on DVD since I actually missed it’s original airing – I also love a good comedy.”

Sounds to me like he’s implying that he didn’t actually make an attempt to watch the fucking movie. Probably would’ve helped his case if he did, just like how it would’ve helped those asshole politician’s cases if they themselves also saw the movie before opening their cunthole mouths against it.

One last thing.
I mentioned in part one of this film analysis that several politicians who rallied against the film had not seen it. It’s worth noting that they claim to have requested a copy of the film, but were denied by Disney ABC. That may be true, and ABC probably should’ve given them copies of the film for the sake of calming the shitstorm that erupted. But they didn’t. I can think of a few reasons why, the main one being why should a studio give out a copy of a film before its release date at the risk of having it leaked online or have bootleg copies floating around? I think they were hoping they would just wait and watch the damn show when it aired, and then bring their arguments afterward, which is how it should be in my opinion. Was this the right decision? In hindsight, maybe not, but there are factors to consider just from a business standpoint alone. The film did eventually air, and at that point many of the arguments turned out to be bullshit, so they shut their mouths. But that still didn’t stop behind the curtains political pressure from going against Disney which went against ABC to shelve the film and keep it locked in the Disney vault for the foreseeable future. And this is a crime against film.

 

PS: Still haven’t finished 1K-R. Working my way through it. But I used the index to go to various pages in an attempt to counter some of the above claims. If I made any mistakes, or if my responses are not solid, by all means, leave a statement in the comments section and I will address it.

End of Review/Analysis (hopefully).

The Path to 9/11 Review/Analysis: Part 2

Rating: 4/5

Note: See part 1 for more information on this film.

Analysis of the Film

The film is made in a Paul Greengrass style (ironic, considering that United 93 was released in the same year, as was Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center; 2006 was quite a year for 5 year 9/11 anniversary films), and as a result the best way to describe it is as a thriller.  From the opening moments the film is gripping, the atmosphere relentless in its tension.  And it stays that way throughout much of the runtime. The sequence of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in of itself is one of the most intense sequences in the movie, only topped by the devastating final act.

Some negatives I have, just about all of the CGI explosion bits.  Granted, this wasn’t the highest budgeted miniseries out there, and this was made just as the golden age of tv shows was getting going (The Wire, The Shield, etc.), but regardless, the questionable looking explosions are still there.  Thankfully, they limit the amount of explosions that happen, to where there’s only about 3 of them that prove to be distracting. Aside from that, this brief battle sequence in the desert had too much stuff going on in the distance, and too little action that could be seen thanks in part to shaky-cam and other tricks that were obviously made to disguise the fact that they didn’t have the budget to make a complex battle scene. Lastly, there’s some questionable cinematography at a few points, such as close-up shots of someone’s face.  That aside, the rest of the film is very well made.


Factual Liberties

And considering that this is a dramatic retelling of historical events, which is the main reason this film got pissed on by the Clintons and banned by Disney due to political pressure, how accurate is the film historically speaking?  The film says it’s based in large part by The 9/11 Commission Report (before those 28 pages of declassified documents were made public which showed that the Saudis funded the terrorists who hijacked the planes), but that’s not all it used as a resource.  The 9/11 Commission Report does not go back to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, it only goes as far back as 1998 when Osama Bin Laden became the main focus of the FBI/CIA manhunt.  So to gather more information, a novel titled The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot, and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It by John C. Miller, Michael Stone, and Chris Miller was used as a resource for making the script for the film, plus 2 other novels titled 1000 Years for Revenge: International Terrorism and the FBI-The Untold Story by Peter Lance, and Relentless Pursuit by Samuel M. Katz.  From what I’ve gathered, Relentless Pursuit stick with the whole process of pursuing and capturing Ramzi Yousef after the 1993 bombing, and the complications that arose during that process. The Cell is much more broad in its scope, covering as much as it could on the 1993 bombing (and various events prior to that) to the events leading up to 9/11. Unfortunately, this book leaves out Nancy Floyd, which is a big fault considering that she played a big role in working with the FBI’s Egyption informant Emad Salem.  The Cell also leaves out the role of Ahmed Shah Massoud, which is an even greater crime. 1000 Years for Revenge is pretty much like The Cell, except it’s written more as a fiction thriller (while being non-fiction) and includes Nancy Floyd, who is one of three main characters the book focuses on (the others are Ramzi Yousef, the bomber, and a firefighter named Ronnie Bucca, who wasn’t included in either The Cell nor the film itself). 1000 Years for Revenge also tends to lean too far into conspiracy theory at times, so both it and The Cell have their pros and cons. I haven’t read Relentless Pursuit, but I’ve read The Cell, and am currently working through 1000 Years for Revenge.

In any case, as far as I know, the film is largely factual, and the liberties it takes are due either to lack of information at the time and/or time compression, or for dramatic flair.  Honestly, as big as a 4 1/2 hour film is, that’s not enough time to cover about 8 years worth of events, so they do the best they can with the time they are given.  The arguments I’ve seen against this film, all of them are pretty much unfounded, exaggerated greatly, or just pure grade A bullshit. I haven’t seen any other documentary or miniseries take as much shit from a political administration and their radical followers as this film has. It’s ridiculous, and the lengths people went to to attack this film have gone to ridiculous levels.  There is one argument I know of that can be used against the film to a small extent.  I’ve mentioned the American Airlines controversy in a previous post, but there are some others I feel like bringing up, just to give you an idea of what sort of liberties and time compression this miniseries utilized. They range from understandable to highly questionable.

* When the NYPD officer took that VIN number evidence from the World Trade Center after the 1993 bombing, the film portrays it as clearly labeled with the ID numbers. According to that novel The Cell, it wasn’t that simple. There were a lot of hole indentures that made it impossible to tell what numbers/letters were displayed without going through a process that involved bending/twisting the metal, coating it with liquid and wiping it, etc., to eventually make out what those numbers/letters are. But again, simplification and time compression, the message still comes across that an NYPD officer went against orders removing evidence from the crime scene which got transferred to a crime lab that led to the arrest of one of the terrorists. That message isn’t muddled at all due to simplifying the event.

* The film didn’t mention some of Yousef’s post 1993 bombing activities, such as assisting a Bin Laden guerrilla army that planned on making an Islamic state out of the Philippines. But, of course, some events have to be overlooked just for the sake of time alone for a docudrama series, let alone focus, since that had nothing really to do with the events that lead towards 9/11, or at the very least is very low on the priority list of what should be included.

* The film kinda time-jumps from 1996 to 1998. The reason for this is because the FBI and JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) were tied up investigating events that ended up having nothing to do with 9/11, the main one being the incident with Flight 800 and a couple other bombings that happened in 1996 and 1997. Understandable why these events were skipped, since they’re basically red herrings when it comes down to events that led to 9/11, at least compared to the other events that were included in the film.

* The film doesn’t mention Ali Mohamed, a guy who was a triple agent, who informed the FBI about bin Laden and Al Qaeda, but also informed bin Laden and Al Qaeda about the FBI, keeping them one step ahead, giving misinformation to the FBI, and stealing top secret documents. Hey was a key element in the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, the USS Cole attack, and 9/11 itself. I suppose the main reason he wasn’t included is because the information on him wasn’t entirely clear at the time, that it would add another layer on an already densely-layered and quick paced plot. Or it could just be that the film-makers just didn’t want the FBI to look that bad. In any case, for anyone who’s curious, he’s worth looking into.

* The film doesn’t mention Jamal al-Fadl, the main guy responsible for providing information about Al Qaeda and its workings, letting the FBI and CIA know just what they were dealing with. Really wish the film included him.

Those last two kinda hurt, but despite those omissions (which could’ve been for any number of logical/acceptable reasons), I still find this film to be a solid historical thriller that has historical lessons/information that are worth remembering. In fact, the film can encourage others to look up the information themselves for more information. The controversy surrounding this film certainly got me to do that to see if it deserved the thrashing it received prior to its airing, and from what I’ve researched so far, I’d say it doesn’t deserve hardly any of it.


GIF source

Rest of the Analysis

Anyway, what’s the theme of the film? What lesson does it push forward? From the opening quotes and the closing images, seems to me that the goal of this film is to show events that highlight the pros and cons of U.S. anti-terrorism policies, and how it goes about following them, and the successes and failures done from 1993 to 2001, and makes sure to highlight the failures to plea for the government and the citizens to find a way to follow through on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report. As the film and the novels the film is based upon mention, there was a serious lack of communication, cooperation, funding, and efficiency when it came to getting the job done, along with higher-ups ignoring warning signs, or just not taking them seriously enough. Which made something like 9/11 seem inevitable in retrospect. But that’s the key point, “in retrospect”. While the film does question the decisions (or lack thereof) made during this time period, it tries not to associate blame at the same time (that’s pretty much in the eye of the beholder, and a few beholders saw blame put somewhere and attacked the film for that reason).

While many have complained that the film puts Bill Clinton in a bad light, they tend to ignore that the film does the same to Bush up to an extent (much less various FBI and CIA agents). As far as Bush goes, from what footage they do include of him, he’s portrayed as a guy who just seems ignorant and uncaring of what is going on outside of his personal life. His administration tends to act accordingly, in that they don’t see the importance and significance of going after terrorists, and thus downsize terrorist task forces (CIA and FBI branches dedicated to going after bin Laden) and focus on other priorities, which in hindsight was a very bad move. As for Clinton, he is shown as someone who does want bin Laden captured/killed, but political climate and foreign diplomatic relations tend to make him and/or the people he has in charge of anti-terrorism organizations second-guess his policies on terror, and thus never go all in or take risks that are necessary for getting the job done.

This leaves several FBI/CIA agents angered and frustrated at the obstacles put up by their own government and people at the top of various organizations that prevent them from getting the job done. They also mention the frustration that comes up with various laws in place which give off the effect of “protecting terrorists”, but also point out that these laws are in place for a reason, for better or worse. That being said, the film raises questions on whether or not laws should change for the sake of fighting this “new kind of war”.

Regarding the entertainment value, I found the miniseries to be investing and very entertaining. I am glad this was developed as a miniseries rather than a full-scale epic movie, because it can be exhausting sitting through this film.  I don’t just mean the information that you get bombarded with in each scene (there is a lot of dialogue and information dumping and events that continually thrust the plot forward, but they never hit you with too much at once).  No, I mean the shakey cam.  Just think Paul Greengrass bad, in that it would be headache inducing if this wasn’t divided into 2 parts.

In addition, the last 30-40 minutes of the film are definitely going to leave you emotionally devastated.  It’s infuriating, intense, horrifying, and sad all at the same time.  The whole film builds up to the tragic event almost like it was an inevitability with the lack of cooperation and the decision not to take terrorisms seriously that caused it to happen, and you can just feel the emotion and the devastation and the shock that everyone felt on that day, whether they were actually there, or turning on the television to witness it.  It’s a true gut-punch of a finale. It also shows some of the higher-ups from earlier, who felt it best to interfere with the earlier attempts to stop the terrorists, as they look at the television screen as the attacks are happening on 9/11, making them realize how wrong they were.

Conclusion

So do I recommend this film?  Of course I do!  This is probably the best 9/11 film out there!  The Path to 9/11 is the definitive docudrama film that stands tall above all other films on the subject, in my opinion.  It’s good enough to where I think it should be shown in history classes (Scholastic even considered that until the controversy erupted).  The head of ABC at the time hinted at the idea that he planned on having the film broadcast every 9/11 anniversary, like how TBS annually plays A Christmas Story every Christmas.  Well, that didn’t happen.  And I’m fucking pissed about it.  I’m pissed at the cocksucking politicians who rallied against it, I’m pissed at Disney for fucking caving into the pressure, and I’m doubly fucking pissed that this isn’t officially available in any video format anywhere within the U.S. (I hear the U.K. and Canada actually have DVD copies of it, because they don’t give a rat’s ass about what U.S. politicians demand; good for them in this case).

So how can you watch the film aside from going to Canada?  Well, you could either try to torrent it, or you can do what I did and purchase a copy on eBay.  Either way, there are multiple reasons for watching it.  Telling Disney to suck it, telling the Clinton administration to suck it, or just wanting to watch a solid historically relevant film that encourages our government to get their shit together.  Interesting note, the film even briefly brings up cyber security.

 

To be continued…

The Path to 9/11 Review/Analysis: Part 1

 

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.”
Source 1
Source 2

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.


Source

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.

To be continued…

World Trade Center Review

Welp, I’ve officially started my film countdown to the 15 year 9/11 anniversary, which just so happens to be the 10 year anniversary of this film, and of 2 other significant 9/11 films. 2006 was quite a year.

I was hesitant to watch this film at first because I heard it was boring, with most of it just taking place under the rubble with some guys pinned down and moping about their life and how they want to live through this to see their family again, blah blah blah. Honestly, that’s not what happens throughout most of the film, though I do believe it could’ve been trimmed down a little more.


Giphy link

So the film starts with Cage waking up as a policeman and going to work at about 3 in the morning. We are introduced to him and a few other of New York’s finest before the first plane hits one of the World Trade Center towers. They eventually scramble, and take a bus over there to help with evacuations. It’s during this time that I found the film interesting. Being in the shoes of these policeman, seeing them around other rescue teams, talking about what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it, and the small talk about the incident. It’s easy to forget that at the time a lot of people didn’t know what was going on. So the dialogue is great in that regard, them mentioning how they think some moron accidentally crashed a plane into the tower, hearing rumors about a second plane hit but brushing it off as someone confusing the smoke pouring out of the first tower to indicate the second tower was on fire, a missile or something hitting the pentagon, World War III about to start, etc. It perfectly encapsulates the chaos and confusion and lack of perfect information that happens during a time of crisis such as this.


Giphy link

Then about 25 minutes in, the first tower collapses and pins the team within the rubble. Aside from some tense incidents of further rumbling, more debris falling in, a pistol going off several times due to the heat, fireballs blasting through the rubble due to sudden emergence of wind tunnels, not much else happens afterwards. There’s the usual life moping, but the film also covers the family members wondering if they are still alive, policeman trying to get things under control, and a couple marines going into the rubble leading the first attempt to locate survivors.


Giphy link

It wasn’t the slowed pace that bothered me for the last half of the movie, it’s the emotion. This emotionally traumatized teenage boy acting like a dick, the crying families, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I know people reacted that way and it was a traumatic experience for them and all, but it doesn’t make scenes like that any less irritating for me. So it loses points for that. It loses extra points for having that grandad from The Visit and not having him shit in a diaper and rub it in that dipshit kid’s face.


Giphy link

And the film makes sure it hammers in the message during the closing moments. “Yeah, bad shit happened on that day, but good shit happened too, people uniting to help others. Yayyy.”

Overall, the film isn’t bad, it’s just not that great.

Rating: 2/5

PS: Sorry for the excessive amount of gif to paragraphs ratio. Just needed something Cage related to lift the mood, and the annoyance, and some of the boredom.