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Clinton blasts 9/11 film, amid report of changes

Story Highlights

• Clinton, aides express concern over accuracy of 9/11 film
• 'Tell the truth' about what led up to attacks, Clinton says
• Papers: ABC making changes
• Miniseries to air on 5th anniversary of al Qaeda attacks
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton called for ABC to "tell the truth" in an upcoming miniseries about the events leading up to the 9/11 attacks.

Senior officials and advisers in Clinton's administration have attacked the accuracy of "The Path to 9/11," accusing filmmakers of including "fictitious" and even "false and defamatory" scenes of how they responded to the terror threat.

"I think they ought to tell the truth, particularly if they're going to claim it's based on the 9/11 commission's report," Clinton told reporters in Arkansas on Thursday.

"They shouldn't have scenes that are directly contradictory to the factual findings of the 9/11 commission. I just want people to tell the truth." (Watch one of the controversial scenes a Clinton official said never happened -- 2:52)

The film is scheduled to air with limited commercial interruption Sunday and Monday, the fifth anniversary of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The ABC network has rejected criticism, saying the film was not a documentary and no one had seen the final version as it was still being edited.

"No one has seen the final version of the film, because the editing process is not yet complete, so criticisms of film specifics are premature and irresponsible," the network said in a statement Thursday.

The New York Times quoted executive producer Marc Platt saying editing of the miniseries was going on and "will continue to, if needed until we broadcast."

The Times, citing Thomas H. Kean, the Republican who chaired the bipartisan 9/11 commission that investigated what led up to the attacks and who has been a consultant to the film, reported that a scene portraying former national security adviser Samuel R. Berger hanging up on a CIA officer at a critical moment is being altered. Two others under review, according to Kean, portray former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright apparently obstructing efforts to capture Osama bin Laden and Clinton being too distracted by impeachment and his marital problems to focus on bin Laden. (Watch Berger explain why the docudrama is "misleading to the core" -- 6:31)

An ABC executive, who requested anonymity because the network is making only written comments, said small revisions have been under way for weeks, according to The Washington Post.

"These are people of integrity," The Post quoted Kean as saying of the filmmakers. "I know there are some scenes where words are put in characters' mouths. But the whole thing is true to the spirit of 9/11."

'No such episode ever occurred'

Favorable reviews by conservative commentators who have seen the film have stoked the controversy. On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience the film shows the Clinton administration was "afraid of failure and what it would mean to their approval ratings" when attacks on the al Qaeda terror network were being planned in the 1990s.

In addition to attacking the reported depiction of events that took place on their watch, Clinton advisers have complained that they have not been allowed to view the film for themselves. (Watch a 9/11 Commission member list inaccuracies in a proposed scene -- 3:30)

In the past week former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former national security adviser Samuel Berger, Clinton Foundation head Bruce Lindsey and Clinton aide Douglas Band have written letters to Disney CEO Robert Iger to express dismay with the film.

"It is unconscionable to mislead the American public about one of the most horrendous tragedies our country has ever known," Lindsey and Band wrote.

They called the project "a fictitious rewriting of history" and urged it be shelved until "egregious factual errors" could be fixed.

Berger objected to the reported portrayal of him refusing to authorize a strike targeting bin Laden when CIA operatives had the al Qaeda leader in their sights.

"No such episode ever occurred -- nor did anything like it," he wrote to Iger. (Read Berger's letter -- .pdf file, requires Adobe Acrobat)

Plans to snatch bin Laden in Afghanistan in early 1998 were canceled by then-CIA chief George Tenet before any proposal was sent to the White House, according to the 9/11 commission's final report.

Kean, the commission's chairman, said he told ABC that the scene involving Berger was inaccurate, and he told CNN that ABC informed him it would revisit the scene.

Albright called a reported depiction of her in one scene as "false and defamatory."

She said the scene shows her refusing to support a missile attack against al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden without notifying Pakistani officials, whose territory the missiles would have to cross. She said the film depicts her notifying Pakistan of the attack over U.S. military objections.

"Before you air your broadcast, I trust you will ensure you have the facts right," Albright wrote to Iger. (Read Albright's letter -- .pdf file, requires Adobe Acrobat)

It was Gen. Joseph Ralston, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told Pakistani officials that a missile strike was under way against al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan. The disclosure was made to assure Pakistan that the missiles were not coming from their nuclear-armed rival India, the 9/11 commission reported.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have also joined in calling reported details of key scenes false and misleading.

In a letter to Iger, Reid said the reputation of ABC's parent company, the Walt Disney Corporation, would be "deeply damaged" if the film aired with those scenes intact.

ABC has said it will run a disclaimer four times during the broadcasts that declares, "The movie is not a documentary."


Movies about 9/11: Do they have an obligation to get the facts right?
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