"... Since the terrorist attacks, Frontline has been leading the in-depth charge -- presenting thorough investigations about bin Laden and his operations. Some of the Frontline terrorism reports, including a profile of bin Laden, were prepared prior to Sept. 11 as other TV news organizations remained oblivious to the magnitude of the threat.
'Inside the Terror Network,' reported by Hedrick Smith, was prepared post-Sept. 11. The scale of the reporting is admirable. Smith and producer Ben Loeterman trace the path of terrorists from Germany to the Middle East and, finally, to America. The documentary focuses on three of the hijackers who rammed aircraft into the World Trade Center and a field in Pennsylvania. ...
The most compelling aspect of 'Inside the Terror Network' is the stark realization of the utterly ordinary aspect of these men. They were not kooks or crazies. They seemed to have everything to live for. Their murderous religious fervor and intentions burned too deeply for anyone else to see.
They were barely noticed on a few occasions. Atta was stopped in Florida for driving without a license. He never showed up for a court date.
He and his cohorts stood out as different at flight school in Florida. According to a fellow classmate, they seemed to take no joy from the lessons.
A few fleeting signals were there. But nobody really paid attention. Why should they? Who could imagine?
'Inside the Terror Network' makes it clear that the terrorists' invisibility was the only clue beforehand. It's an unsettling message about our brave new world."
"...[E]vil, in distilled form, holds a certain fascination for those unfamiliar with it, so the 19 hijackers -- whether we like it or not -- hold a certain fascination, too.
That's why tonight's Frontline -- 'Inside the Terror Network" -- arrives with such promise. Beside the provocative name, this one has the estimable historian, journalist, author (and Frontline correspondent) Hedrick Smith reporting from the murky depths.
But there are problems, and -- just to pick one -- the broadcast's conclusion is among them. 'The enduring shock of Sept. 11 is that we did not understand the world we lived in,' says the narrator. 'We failed from complacency and poor imagination.'
By this, Smith and Frontline mean we were so full of ourselves, so out to lunch, that we never possibly imagined other people could be plotting against us. Really? More likely we simply failed to imagine another human being could be so totally depraved.
The bigger problem is this, though. 'Terror Network' goes where so many others have gone before. Anyone who has studied the papers or grown catatonic night after weary night watching CNN or Fox News will know the particulars reported here. ...
'Inside the Terror Network' would have been a brilliant piece of reporting had it aired, say, on Sept. 17. On Jan. 17, it feels like warmed-over oatmeal. ..."
"... As Frontline details, in impressive chronological order, these conspirators plotted for years, virtually in plain view, unquestioned and unsuspected. ...
Maybe the most bizarre of Frontline's tales of missed gotchas came just after Atta and Al-Shehhi earned their pilot's licenses. They flew a small plane to Miami International Airport. When it had mechanical problems, the pair simply walked off and left it on the busy runway. ...
This report reminds us that there is something all of us can do to help in the war against terrorists.
We can keep our eyes open."
"... It's true that much of what is reported here has already been available in long accounts in newspapers and magazines. But since many of us don't read those, [this show] will give you all you might ever want to know about the planning that went into the attacks.
In the end ... I have to admit: I still don't understand why they did it, and even if I see a thousand more shows like these, I don't think I ever will."
"... 'Inside the Terror Network' packs a good deal of information about the ringleaders of the al Qaeda terror cell that perpetrated the Sept. 11 attacks into one tightly wrapped package. So if you have the patience for only a summary, this is a good one.
The hour (a Frontline-BBC collaboration) profiles Mohammed Atta, Marwin al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, the pilots of the two planes that struck the World Trade Center and the one that crashed in western Pennsylvania, and it chronicles the steps -- and the few missteps -- they took from the time they met in Hamburg, Germany, in the mid-'90s until the attacks. It also points out the far more numerous missteps U.S. and European officials made in failing to stop them ("They succeeded by commitment and cunning," Smith says. "We failed from complacency and poor judgment."). Behind all this is something approaching psychoanalysis. Smith calls the film the 'personal journey' of the three men, and it does get quite personal. But it doesn't get personal for its own sake -- do we really want to know these guys? -- and there's no tawdry speculation as Smith probes their motivations. ..."
"What could drive men to plan the mass murders of Sept. 11? And how could a conspiracy so vast go undetected by the authorities? On Frontline, Hedrick Smith examines these haunting mysteries and interviews friends, teachers, landlords and family members of the terrorists.
While Frontline offers some insight on the conspirators, it provides no plausible reason why their complex plot fell through the cracks. ..."
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