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Need to Know, September 10, 2010

This week on Need to Know, we discuss where we are as a people — where we’ve been, and where we’re going — as we mark another year, the ninth, since the terrorist attacks on 9/11. First, we investigate a law enforcement policy known as “preemptive prosecution,” a technique to combat so-called homegrown terrorism. Then, we meet a filmmaker who chronicles a reporter’s journey to find the roots of Islamic terror. The film is called “My Trip to Al Qaeda.”

Plus: After years of gridlock, there’s finally progress at the World Trade Center. Alison Stewart provides an update on the rebuilding of Ground Zero, and talks to a community advocate about why the process has taken so long. And Jon Meacham reflects on the tolerance Americans showed after 9/11, and implores us to fight nativism as strongly as we fight terrorism.

Watch the individual segments:
Before the fact: The Fort Dix Five

Need to Know explores the profiles of the men convicted of plotting to kill American soldiers at Fort Dix, and examines the U.S. strategy for stopping and finding homegrown terrorists.
Rick Nelson on counterterrorism after 9/11

Need to Know discusses American anti-terrorism strategies, nine years after 9/11, with Rick Nelson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Why is Ground Zero still a construction site?
Alison Stewart provides a progress report on the redevelopment of the World Trade Center and speaks with Julie Menin, chair of Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan, about the gridlock.
Alex Gibney on his new Al Qaeda documentary
Alison Stewart speaks with documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney about his body of work and about his latest film, “My Trip to Al Qaeda,” based on Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright’s one-man play.
In perspective: Religion in America

In this essay, Jon Meacham reflects on the remarkable tolerance of Americans after 9/11, offers lessons from his own faith and implores us to fight nativism as strongly as we fight terrorism.


  • Gailandersen

    Re: John Meacham’s editorial:

    Well done; personal and on point. (not to mention going out on a limb?)

    As far as Muslim bashing (or bashing any other religion or belief) … “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Thank you for pointing out that not all that long ago Christians were burning each other at the stake and enslaving Native Americans. Let us not forget that we now wish to see these historic individuals as members of fringe groups not unlike how we might veiw Al-Qaeda or Pastor Jones, looking to extremism as a way to co-opt power.

  • Brian

    Another great show. Thank you.

  • Hunterhm

    Bravo! Good show, I really do feel my television time well spent! I don’t comment often but please accept my congradulations on a show well done. If I could think of something magnificent to say I most certainly would.Please contiue the excellent work. I can honestly say I feel more adult. The show was exciting and you all deserve a salary increase to say the least.May this show be the sixty minutes of public television.I feel more human, more american.

  • thildebrand

    The story of the Fort Dix 5 is dismaying. The information presented in the story convinces me that it was a clear case of entrapment. I am very surprised that the word “entrapment” did not occur anywhere within the space of the story. Why not?

    Without the well-paid informant and formerly convicted criminal Omar, there would not have been even a seed for an incipient plot against Fort DIx, and the government would have had no case whatsoever. Ultimately, I have faith that our courts will see the obvious corruption of our government agents and the injustice of the case and throw out the conviction of the five Muslim men. “Al Qaeda” and “Radical Islam” are more contrived than real – a replacement of the “Red Menace” of Cold War times that I previously lived through. The extremely powerful corporate interests that are enriched by our massive “national defense” expenditures need a new “enemy” to focus our attention toward to justify the perpetuation of the budgetary status quo.

    With the FBI’s sordid history since the time J. Edgar Hoover was its leader, it has often been a very corruptive influence in American society. I hold that there are in fact more dangerous criminal elements embedded within the ranks, and especially the leadership, of the FBI than there are within the ranks of the groups they have infiltrated in the name of “criminal justice.”

  • George Wolf

    I’ve been undecided on the Bill Moyer’s replacement show – until now. Jon, your Perspective piece was really great! When I see young adults the age of my kids bringing profound truths to the listening audience, I have hope for the future. Thanks, George from Florida

  • James P. Kartell, M.D.

    Jon Meacham’s essay placing Islam in perspective was brilliant, articulate, and poignant. These tthoughts needed to be expressed in in a cogent and perceptive manner. Congratulations ! Your program is a masterpiece and I hope it has widespread viewership throughout the nation because there are many insights which need to be learned.

  • Jane Burrington

    During the entire 8 years of the Bush administration the media including pbs, were unsupportive of his religious beliefs and words. Religion should never be talked about from a president and the disrespect of his beliefs were talked /bashed numerous times. Now all of sudden all these reporters on tv are announcing “their christain status” in life and openly discuss their beliefs which was all talked down during and ridiculed in previous years, I wonder why???

  • Bob Warfield, Citizen

    John Meacham & Alison Stewart: Congratulations for splendid contemporary IT journalism.

    Re Rick Nelson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, some good points, but laced with a lot of screwy ideas concerning “Need to Know’s Policy Wand” – “price of free speech,” implicit role of “government” to intercede where media clearly has best, appropriate, traditional and effective role; nutty need to shut down IT sites – certainly not to be confused with burning books or restricting ideas, eh? There should be no doubt that NAS has the wherewithal to monitor and analyze selective E-association where appropriate concern indicates. And hasn’t every lesson from history shown that more speech, not less is the answer to compelling interest and resulting morality?

    Re “The Fort Dix Five,” FBI, at the sordid edge of commendable law enforcement, altogether too frequent I think, pounced too soon to present a convincing case – leaving everyone in a quandary as to appropriate disposition. These guys were heading for trouble, but had yet to arrive. The entire concept of “Preemptive Prosecution/Enforcement” remains unconvincing, and the particular question in limbo for want of a better script writer.

    Re Julie Menin, chair of Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan, poised, thoughtful, engaging, brilliant; and destined for higher office.

    The one final thought that resonates beyond all of this comes from Alex Gibney, noting the crucial need for us to fashion effective means to publicly finance elective office – “to get the money out of our politics.” There are few questions of practical choice for collective good that cannot be decided with relative ease by the average fifth grade class of an American public school.

  • Sha

    Regarding Rick Nelson’s comments.
    1. He does not speak for me or other Americans. We have our own voices.
    2. My voice and those of whom I work, and pray, and shop, and family, etc., with, know CLEARLY AND PROFOUNDLY that Americans are intolerant of such a destructive religion that calls for murdering of others, and is inhumane to human kind, and is disgustingly contributing to the suffrage of women while men are arrogant and overbearing and commanding. It is my opinion and that of millions of Americans this is not the call of the God we know.
    3. With that said, Although Terry Jones is just a spot in all the world, his heart was in the right place in that his purpose was to EXPOSE to the world the REALITY of the NY Mosque issue. The Imman did state that if the Mosque wasn’t built there would be some retaliation. All other religions would not have behaved in such a manner as that Imman; that attitude makes Americans dislike, if not hate, Islamists and Muslims more. Frankly, I’d like all of them to leave. IF THEY CAN’T STAND THE HEAT GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN!
    4. WHO IN THE HELL IN WASHINGTON THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO USE THIS RADICAL IMMAN and the fact that he has spoken against America after 911 and now in regard to the Quran, Koran, burning to represent America in any way for any reason. I certainly want his relationship with our government to end immediately and the mosque building to end.

  • Etherealist

    Is no one else outraged by the atrocious and disgusting segment on the Fort Dix Five? It is sickening and deplorable that the FBI “informant” was paid $180,000!! to turn in these innocent young men. This is my tax money that is being spent – how do we rationalize this in the name of “national security”? This can only be categorized as a current day Salem witch hunt.

  • mg lovin

    I don’t know why this is portrayed on television as controversial. These people were planning to attacking a military base. They were advocating attacks against America and watched videos of soldiers dying for fun. They were planning on buying the weapons to execute a premeditated attack on Fort Dix and had maps of it. The spy was not putting these ideas into their minds and his pay was adequate for the risk he took getting close to the group. If the PBS show was a trial and I on the jury, my vote would be guilty.

  • Bdunning

    It is not innocent when they hate USA and want to destroy it/us. There was no discussion of loyalty to their country-and they were raised here-with rights to speak out but not clandestine activities.

  • Bdunning

    If you think the FBI pounced too soon on these haters of our country-then you stand watch at their house when they get out and you will not doubt find they hate us more than ever. The ideology they have is instilled in the so called religion-to take over the infidels and overcome for Islam

  • Bdunning

    BS-you need to get a grasp on reality. Macham is a left winger-but probably just like you

  • Bdunning

    Maybe you think they were entrapped-but would you be there to stop them at the gate. If they had better planning, they would have reeked havoc on our beloved USA. Some laws do not pertain in war-and we are in one to the finish-wait and see when they control your brain or you die

  • Bdunning

    And do not forget that the Islam war mongers took over what was Christian territories-like Egypt, Syria, and on and on. They killed unless you bowed down to the idea, or paid a penalty in money. NOw is that religion? Hardly. Forget the only comparison of Christians and their wrong traits. It was peaceful discussion of God before the rage of Islam came on. Isn’t it an irony that Muhammed got kicked out of Mecca, then went back there to kill those that took up against him; then Medina, and so on. Read to facts

  • Jim Feichtl

    Regarding your panel discussion on ‘Islamaphobia’, I was disappointed to hear so-called Christian leaders calling for and asking for tolerance. Christ’s main teaching was not tolerance, but love, for everyone, most especially those who hate you and do you the most harm. Only by reacting to hate with love can we stop the cycles of retribution andf set the example that can truly change our world. I think the religous leaders need to go back and really look at what Christ was teaching.

  • Terry Hildebrand

    If not for the highly paid informant, a convicted criminal himself who had very much to gain by being the government’s set-up artist, the “Fort Dix Five” obviously would never have even gotten to the front gate of Fort Dix. Previous to the informant’s instigation to try to create a crime, they had just been venting while doing target practice out in the wild like so many right-wing looneys, wanna-be mercenary soldiers.

    We have very much to fear as US citizens if this is our government’s idea of “justice.”

  • Zuckerlippen
  • Zuckerlippen

     Well actually the REAL masterpiece is James P Kartell…   now your a guy who’s a real ‘piece of work’…    You hacked me when you were ‘practicing’ in MA, and tried your best to hide it, cheat and deceive me….  And then of course you became a MURDERER later on, shooting someone to death in a hospital room, first in the belly, and then in the back of the head while the victim was on the floor…   THEN, you had the audacity to come back after prison, and petition to get a medical license back (ALL states had indefinitely suspended his licenses)….  Now this is the sorta creature who I’d want to get opinions from, ha…..