ABC has announced the synopsis for it's 2-night, 5-hour movie The Path to 9/11 airing Sunday, September 10 (8:00-11:00 p.m. PT/ET) and Monday, September 11 (8:00-10:02 p.m. [approx.], PT/ET):
Note -- This dramatization is based on The 9/11 Commission Report and other published sources and personal interviews. Composite and representative characters and incidents, and time compression have been used for dramatic purposes. Due to subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. These programs carry a TV-14,V parental guideline.
September 11, 2001. Teams of terrorist hijackers board four American airliners and take control of the cockpits. Passengers and flight controllers quickly learn something is terribly wrong...
February 1993. On a similarly ordinary day, New York is stunned by a deadly bombing at the World Trade Center. The discovery of a traceable van part at the site leads to the arrest of one of the conspirators, and he is linked to a mosque led by the Blind Sheikh, a radical cleric. A valuable FBI informant helps bring down the cleric and his cell. A manhunt for elusive WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef ensues, and he narrowly escapes capture in Pakistan, where he is linked to the attempted assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Yousef travels to the Philippines, where he tests an innovative small bomb that kills a flight passenger and comes close to bringing down the plane as well. He's almost captured again when a fire at his bomb-making lab exposes to Manila police his plot involving the simultaneous bombings of a dozen airliners.
Yousef is finally brought down when an informant in Pakistan tips off a team of agents working in coordination with FBI counterterrorism expert John O'Neill. Yousef's trail leads them to a rebel named Usama bin Laden.
In 1998 journalist John Miller's interview with bin Laden is broadcast, and O'Neill and others in Washington are alarmed by the al Qaeda leader's fatwa against the U.S. CIA field agent "Kirk" contacts bin Laden's primary opposition, General Massoud of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, and they concoct a plan to capture bin Laden and bring him to the U.S. to face justice. The plan is never approved for action, but the simultaneous bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa push the Administration to respond with an ineffective missile strike that some think merely elevates bin Laden's stature in the Muslim world. Arrests of al Qaeda operatives at the Canadian-U.S. border and in New York on the eve of the millennium provide further evidence that Muslim extremists are bringing their holy war to America.
The October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole sends O'Neill and his team to Yemen, where he runs afoul of the U.S. Ambassador, who tries to have O'Neill recalled to the States. The investigation in Yemen stalls, but the White House, confident bin Laden is behind the attack, continues to debate how to stop him.
In 2001 counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke's warnings about bin Laden are downplayed, as is an FBI agent's warning to his superiors that some suspicious individuals are learning to fly jet aircraft. O'Neill butts heads with the CIA over their lack of shared information, and while intelligence agencies squabble, al Qaeda terrorists, under the radar, continue with their hijacking plot.
O'Neill, his career stalled by an incident wherein he lost his laptop, and tired of the bureaucracy, retires from the FBI in August and takes over security at the WTC. Shortly thereafter, the Northern Alliance's Massoud, who had pressed the U.S. for assistance against the Taliban and warned that bin Laden might strike, is assassinated by al Qaeda agents. Two days later comes September 11, and O'Neill dies bravely, along with thousands of others, in an attack by the enemy he had devoted his career to thwarting.
In the aftermath, the 9/11 Commission is formed to study the events leading up to that fateful day and to form recommendations to confront the threat of terrorism.