the dark side
Tuesday night, Frontline aired a 90-minute report on Vice President Dick Cheney’s control of our nation’s response to the brutal 9/11 attacks. This afternoon, PBS released the entire program for on-demand web viewing.
With strong sourcing and on-camera interviews with dozens of former national security and CIA officials, the hard-hitting program documents how Cheney and his longtime colleague Donald Rumsfeld worked with loyalists in top positions at relevant departments to quickly shift operations from a CIA plan to attack terrorist globally to a Pentagon-driven effort to invade Iraq.
Much of what is presented has been written about before. In fact, journalists Steve Coll, Ron Suskind, Bob Woodward and Dana Priest discuss their work as part of the documentary. Frontline itself has even covered a few of the key points (watch Rumsfeld’s War). But, this is the first time the story has been presented so completely and compellingly.
Despite its importance, the program is difficult to watch. We learn that CIA advance teams in Afghanistan were denied promised Army Special Forces support for 6 weeks until Rumsfeld was given total control of the operation. We receive more evidence that military resources were diverted for Iraq while we were still fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. There is extensive documentation about intelligence on Iraq’s weapons programs that was distorted and manipulated. And, despite the programs intentional focus on Cheney, Rumsfeld and their war with the CIA, the viewer must ask where the President and the National Security Advisor were during these meetings. The records show that they were in attendance, but the principals seem unable to recall meaningful participation.
Current Administration officials refused to talk to Frontline, and many of those interviewed were the losers in the intense internal political fight over our national security policy. Still, what is most remarkable to me is the large number of top CIA people willing to discuss the post-9/11 events. Yes, they have an agenda, but throughout their long and distinguished careers it had not been overtly political. To dismiss their comments now as purely partisan would be a mistake.
Watch The Dark Side
Bonus link: Find additional PBS on-demand programs