The Path to 9/11 controversy

Even if you didn’t catch The Path to 9/11 on either of its two nights on ABC, chances are you heard something about the controversy swirling around it. Critics on both the left and the right – but particularly, Clinton administration officials – objected to the docudrama’s inaccuracies and conflation of events leading up to ...

607101_ABC5.jpg
607101_ABC5.jpg

Even if you didn't catch The Path to 9/11 on either of its two nights on ABC, chances are you heard something about the controversy swirling around it. Critics on both the left and the right - but particularly, Clinton administration officials - objected to the docudrama's inaccuracies and conflation of events leading up to the 9/11 terror attacks. American Airlines is even considering legal action after the movie erroneously depicted airline officials in Boston ignoring a warning flagging Mohammed Atta about to board Flight 11. 

So, the question is: With an event like 9/11, where does the commitment to history end and artistic license begin? When so many Americans still have erroneous ideas about who is responsible for 9/11, shouldn't the bar for accuracy be higher and the resistance to dramatization be greater - particularly because that dramatization can all too easily give way to excessive politicization? To discuss all this and more, FP spoke recently with the screenwriter and producer of The Path to 9/11, Cyrus Nowrasteh.

FP: How many parts truth and how many parts fiction is the movie?

Even if you didn’t catch The Path to 9/11 on either of its two nights on ABC, chances are you heard something about the controversy swirling around it. Critics on both the left and the right – but particularly, Clinton administration officials – objected to the docudrama’s inaccuracies and conflation of events leading up to the 9/11 terror attacks. American Airlines is even considering legal action after the movie erroneously depicted airline officials in Boston ignoring a warning flagging Mohammed Atta about to board Flight 11. 

So, the question is: With an event like 9/11, where does the commitment to history end and artistic license begin? When so many Americans still have erroneous ideas about who is responsible for 9/11, shouldn’t the bar for accuracy be higher and the resistance to dramatization be greater – particularly because that dramatization can all too easily give way to excessive politicization? To discuss all this and more, FP spoke recently with the screenwriter and producer of The Path to 9/11, Cyrus Nowrasteh.

FP: How many parts truth and how many parts fiction is the movie?

CN: I’m not going to answer that. Ultimately, and I’ve found this with every docudrama I’ve done, people in the same room at the exact same moment during a major historical incident can have completely different versions of what happened. It’s the Rashomon effect. We have tried to be as accurate as possible. There are numerous attorneys who vetted this material. The chairman of the 9/11 Commission himself signed off on the movie.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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