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Kean Distorts Own Report in ABC-Clinton Controversy

Reported by Judy - September 8, 2006 -

Tom Kean, the Republican who headed the 9/11 Commission, distorted the findings of his own commission's report Friday (September 8, 2006) on "Fox and Friends" when he defended the ABC "docu-drama" about the tragedy as truthful. Updated with video.

Kean, who was a paid consultant to ABC for the series, claimed it was "very well done" and urged all Americans to watch it. When he was asked about whether the Clinton administration had an opportunity to kill Osama bin Laden and decided not to take it, Kean insisted there was, but he couldn't recall when it occurred.

"There was an opportunity, Tarnak Farms. There was an opportunity at one point where they thought they had bin Laden located. They had tribes they were working with that worked with us in the Afghan war against Russia and we thought we could take him out at that point. For whatever reason, the decision in Washington was made to abort the operation," he said.

"This was not in ’91, later than that. It was early enough so that it was before, I think before the United States government realized just how serious this was and how bad a guy bin Laden was and so the concern was would there would be women and children hurt in the attack, what problems would result. I think they were pretty close. The CIA had the operation scoped.”

For someone who spent months on the commission and presumably reviewed all the information in his paid job as a consultant to the movie, Kean seemed to have remarkably few facts at his disposal concerning such a key point in the film he was called on to discuss.

Let's refresh his memory, using the 9/11 Commission Report itself.

"[CIA Director George] Tenent told us that given the recommendationof his chief operations officers, he alone had decided to 'turn off' the operation. He had simply informed Berger, who had not pushed back. Berger's recollection was similar. He said the plan was never presented to the White House for a decision.

"The CIA's senior management clearly did not think the plan would work. Tenet's deputy director of operatons wrote to Berger a few weeks later that the CIA assessed the tribals' ability to capture bin Ladin and deliver him to U.S. officials as low. Bur working-level CIA officers were disappointed. Before it was canceled, Schroen described it as the 'best plan we are going to come up with to capture [bin Ladin] while he is in Afghanistan and bring him to justice.' No capture plan before 9/11 ever again attained the same level of detail and preparation. the Tribals' reported readiness to act diminished. And bin Laden's security precautions and defenses became more elaborate and formidable.

"At this time 9/11 was more than three years away. It was the duty of Tenent and the CIA leadership to balance the risks of inaction against jeopardizing the lives of their operatives and agents. And they had reason to worry about failure: millions of dollars down the drain; a shoot-out that could be seen as an assassination; and, if there were repercussions in Pakistan, perhaps a coup. The decisions of the U.S. government in May 1998 were made, as Berger has put it, from the vantage point of the driver looking through a muddy windshield moving forward, not through a clean rearview mirror." (pp. 114-115.)

Furthermore, the CIA agent in the field put the chances of success at "about 40 percent. Although the tribals thought they could pull off the raid, if the operation were approved by headquarters and the policymakers, Schroen wrote there was gong to be a point when 'we step back and keep our fingers crossed that the [tribals] prove as good (and as lucky) as they think they will be." (p. 112)

It's incredible that Kean could not remember that Tenet said the decision was his, and his alone, to scrap the operation. Instead, Kean blames it on "Washington." Then Kean goes on to imply that the CIA was wanting to go ahead with the operation, saying it had the operation "scoped," and that it was stopped for some unknown reason. And he can't remember that the agent closest to the operation and most upset when it was halted only thought it had a 40 percent chance of success.

Kean wasn't finished with his distortions of his own report. Later, he said, "We had a number of opportunities to get bin Laden and for one reason or another we didn’t or missed opportunities. The word we used in the report is 'actionable intelligence.' The people in Washington decided the intelligence we had wasn’t actionable, which covers a multitude of sins.”

Would one of those times been in December 1998? About that incident, the report says a strike was not ordered, but "Bin Ladin left his room unexpectedly,and if a strike had been ordered he would not have been hit."

Kean denied that politics was behind the series or his own participation in it. "No, I don’t think it is, and I think people won’t think it when they watch it. It’s very well done. This idea that Hollywood is somehow after Bill Clinton is just nuts," he said, laughing afterwards. Yeah, well so is the idea of the "liberal media."

"Fox and Friends" of course had no Democrats on to counter Kean. And it followed up Kean's appearance with one by a conservative, Brent Bozell, president of the right-wing Media Research Center.

Bozell claimed the Clinton complaints were "classic Team Clinton political spin" and that "All these voices coming up protesting the movie are voices of people who haven't seen the movie yet, which ought to tell you something right then and there." Of course, they haven't seen the movie because ABC would not give them a copy, although it gave away 900 copies to conservativies. And that ought to tell you something right then and there.

Bozell insisted the movie was close enough to the truth.

"Perhaps 2 percent of it wa wrong, perhaps 2 percent of it is debatable. .. That leaves you with about 96 percent of the movie that is accurate," he said, also noting that the 9/11 commission report is "not biblical truth."

He called it "disgraceful that people are playing politics with this in the Clinton camp. Look, this movie goes after Beoge Bush here. You don’t see the Bush people whining.” You also don't see George Bush sitting in his chair reading "My Pet Goat" for seven minutes either.

Two months before an election, a national network decides to produce series about an American tragedy that falsely portrays events leading up to it.