Leader Blues

Saturday, September 09, 2006

TOP STORY>>Clinton disputes TV show’s ‘facts’

IN SHORT: The former president says an ABC-TV docudrama distorts his record on fighting bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

By GARRICK FELDMAN AND ALIYA FELDMAN
Leader editor and special contributor

Former President Clinton told The Leader on Thursday that there are several inaccuracies in an ABC docudrama that accuses him of ignoring the looming threat from al-Qaeda and missing out on opportunities to kill Osama bin Laden.

“I haven’t seen the film,” the former president told us during an appearance at the Clinton Presidential Library, “but there should be nothing in there that’s false.”

“There are at least two falsehoods in the movie,” the former president continued, involving his national security adviser, who is depicted in the movie as ordering the CIA not to kill bin Laden, and a later decision to bomb bin Laden’s camp, which was conveyed by the secretary of state to Pakistani authorities, who tipped off bin Laden.

Clinton denied both assertions.
Although the movie, “The Path to 9/11,” is supposedly based on conclusions made by the 9/11 Commission Report, Clinton said the documentary distorts the report’s findings.

The ABC miniseries, set to air this Sunday and Monday, blames Clinton for the destruction of the World Trade Center. (ABC is re-editing the film and might even cancel it.)

Even though he’s been out of office for five years, conservative commentators still blame him for 9/11 because he didn’t pursue bin Laden more aggressively, although others recognize that President Bush ignored intelligence that confirmed the threat from al-Qaeda.

About the errors in “The Path to 9/11,” Clinton said:
“There are two scenes that are clearly false, and anything that is false should be pulled.”

The former president insisted that the 9/11 Commission Report makes it clear he was determined to go after bin Laden.
Clinton said the film misrepresent the findings of the 9/11 Commission Report, and “you can’t go against what the 9/11 Commission Report states.”

The film claims Clinton was distracted by the Lewinsky affair, and to divert the nation’s attention from the scandal, he allowed a strike against bin Laden, but by then he was on the run.

He also noted his surprise that the errors could make it into the television movie since Richard Clarke is a consultant to ABC.
Clarke was the counter-terrorism adviser on the U.S. National Security Council when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred and was also on the Security Council from 1998 to 2000 under Clinton.

“We worked hard for years to get bin Laden,” Clinton said.

The former president said he directed that missiles be targeted at bin Laden when he was in Afghanistan in 1998.

The ABC miniseries criticizes the Clinton administration for a meeting between a member of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Pakistani government official to “say the missiles (to be used in the strike against bin Laden) were ours.”

Clinton says Cyrus Nowrasteh, who wrote and produced “The Path to 9/11,” left that detail out of the film, along with the political climate in Asia at that time.

The 9/11 Commission Report states that the meeting did take place so that Pakistani authorities would not think their country was under attack from India, as it had been in the past.

In 1998, both India and Pakistani were conducting successful nuclear weapon detonations.

Clinton said the movie is wrong about his national security adviser Sandy Berger ordering the CIA not to kill bin Laden, or that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright would not allow a missile strike against the head of al-Qaeda before first alerting the Pakistani authorities, who then alerted bin Laden that an attack was coming.

Even more than if the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented, the show sheds light on how five years later, bin Laden has still not been captured.

Clinton was at the presidential library for a book launch of “Conversations: William Jefferson Clinton, from Hope to Harlem,” a chronicle of the former president’s legacy from the people who knew him before he was elected to lead the country.

Janis F. Kearney, a diarist for Clinton when he was in the White House, said she wanted to include the voices of people in her book who are not usually in history books, especially African Americans.

“He could have chosen a path where no one was a naysayer, where everyone was his friend,” Kearney said about Clinton.

The celebration at the Clinton Library in downtown Little Rock was subdued temporarily by those naysayers at ABC-TV, who appear to be giving into pressure from Clinton’s supporters and will likely revise or cancel the movie.