FP: Cyrus Nowrasteh, welcome to Frontpage interview.
Nowrasteh: Thank you for having me.
FP: Tell us how you came to write and produce this miniseries.
Nowrasteh: Early last year (2005) I was approached by ABC and asked if I'd be interested in writing/producing a miniseries based on the 9/11 Commission Report. I met with executive producer Marc Platt and Governor Kean, Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, who agreed to serve as a consultant on the project. I was provided an incredible amount of research materials and high-level advisors from the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Diiplomatic Security, etc. I also expanded my research beyond the commission report, which only goes back to 1998, concluding that I needed to go back to the first attack on the WTC in '93 and tell this story over six hours. Marc Platt and ABC exec Quinn Taylor agreed. I got to work, wrote the 6 hours in 10 weeks and we started filming in the Summer of 2005 under the very able direction of David L. Cunningham. We filmed in Toronto, Washington D.C., New York, and 5 weeks in Morocco. Filming concluded in December, 2005.
FP: Share some of the details about the development of the project. How important would you say it is?
Nowrasteh: This miniseries is not just about the tragedy and events of 9/11, it dramatizes "how we got there" going back 8 years to the first attack on the WTC and dealing with the Al Qaeda strikes against U.S. embassies and forces in the 90s, the political lead-up, the hatching of the terrorist plots, etc. We see the heroes on the ground, like FBI agent John O'Neill and others, who after the '93 attack felt sure that the terrorists would strike the WTC again. It also dramatizes the frequent opportunities the Administration had in the 90s to stop Bin Laden in his tracks -- but lacked the will to do so. We also reveal the day-by-day lead-up of clues and opportunities in 2001 right up to the day of the 9/11 attacks. This is a terror thriller as well as a history lesson. I think people will be engaged and enlightened.
FP: When you refer to the failed effort to stop Bin Laden in the 1990s, this was obviously the time of Bill Clinton. How much do you think his administration made us vulnerable to 9/11?
Nowrasteh: The 9/11 report details the Clinton's administration's response -- or lack of response -- to Al Qaeda and how this emboldened Bin Laden to keep attacking American interests. The worst example is the response to the October, 2000 attack on the U.S.S. COLE in Yemen where 17 American sailors were killed. There simply was no response. Nothing.
FP: So could 9/11 have been stopped?
Nowrasteh: Difficult question. Many experts believe it could not have been stopped. Maybe if the FBI had been allowed to look into Zacarias Moussaoui's laptop when he was arrested in mid-August, 2001, or if the terrorists on the watch list living in San Diego under their real names had been picked up. No one can say for sure.
In the miniseries we focus on weaknesses and mistakes so that we can learn from them. So that we can be safer, stronger, wiser. We do, though, highlight the heroes on the ground and the small victories (the break-up of the millennium plot) in the lead up to 9/11. Our harshest criticism in the show is for our enemies.
FP: When you say the harshest criticism in the show is for our enemies, would you agree that this is not ordinary for mainstream TV? Usually there is a an anti-Bush and anti-American bias, no? The terror war is somehow blamed on the U.S. or there is a moral equivalency applied. What do you think?
Nowrasteh: You'd have to give me examples of TV movies or shows that have a consistent anti-Bush anti-American bias. I certainly wouldn't say that about "24" -- quite the opposite. If you're talking about theatrical movies I'd agree, especially examples like Fahrenheit 9/11 and Syriana which I was told in Morocco last November was a recruiting film for suicide bombers. As for The Path to 9/11 we show how the plot was hatched and developed by Al Qaeda and the ruthlessness with which the perpetrators acted. I'd hardly call that controversial.
FP: What are some new ways that you perceive 9/11 after having written/produced the series than how you perceived it beforehand? Have your views changed in some ways?
Nowrasteh: I'm more determined in my belief that we must, unqualifiedly, win the war on terror. We must keep the terrorists on the run, looking over their shoulders -- kind of like what Bin Laden is doing right now.
FP: What are your thoughts on how the British just successfully blocked the plot to bomb trans-Atlantic jetliners in mid-air? What is the significance of this development?
Nowrasteh: As for blocking this plot, it's quite significant and the Brits should be applauded, as should our President. If you had said on 9/12/01 that there wouldn't be another major terrorist attack on American shores in the next 5 years you'd have been called nuts. Also, when you watch The Path to 9/11 you'll see that this recent plot is plagiarized from Ramzi Yousef and Khaled Sheikh Mohammed's "Bojinka" plot in 1995 that was foiled thanks to a Filipina police Captain. It's nice to see that technologically they haven't advanced much since '95.
FP: What specific policies and strategies do you think America must apply to win this terror war?
Nowrasteh: The Patriot Act was a huge first step. We need to watch our borders and watch our "allies" like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan -- as well as our enemies. And I support anything we can do to assist those Iranian people who wish to join the civilized world.
FP: Mr. Nowrasteh, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview. We'll be anxiously waiting to watch The Path to 9/11 on ABC, September 10th & 11th.
Nowrasteh: Thank you.
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