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Radio 4 and 9/11 Ten Years on

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Gwyneth Williams Gwyneth Williams 18:00, Saturday, 3 September 2011

Last night we recorded the first of Eliza Manningham-Buller's Reith Lecture series. I need not tell you that security was high for the former Director General of MI5 and the Radio Theatre was littered with senior members of the secret world.

Eliza Manningham-Buller

The former Director General of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller giving the first of her BBC Reith Lectures to be broadcast on 6 September 2011.

I am glad to be broadcasting these lectures which invite us to consider the decade that has just passed through the prism she offers: how democracies confront the challenges that terrorism brings and how we balance our freedoms with necessary security.

She was at the heart of events that day ten years ago and she speaks frankly about her views, answering questions with an alarming precision.

The theme of the 2011 Reith Lectures is freedom - never more relevant as the Arab Spring continues to unfold around us.

Baroness Manningham-Buller's lectures make up the second part of this specially extended series following those of the distinguished Burmese campaigner for democracy, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who gave a moving account of the struggle for freedom from tyranny in lectures that were secretly recorded and smuggled out of Burma.

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 offers a chance for Radio 4 to bring together many sides of the network for those who want to explore a truth beyond News and Current Affairs programming.

We tell the story of The Day Before painting a portrait of New York, America and the wider world as it was 24 hours before the attacks. We have adapted The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid who talks to Jim Naughtie about the chilling encounter in that story in Bookclub. He takes listeners to Pakistan and brings to life a new mood in the meeting of strangers there - one tainted now perhaps for ever.

We have asked five internationally-acclaimed writers to write an open letter for Radio 4 listeners in the 9/11 Letters, in which they consider the consequences of 9/11: Joseph O'Neill, Michael Morpurgo, Lionel Shriver, Caryl Phillips and Naomi Alderman. We will run these letters across the Book of the Week slot in the morning.

Washington, 9/11 is our drama. Reconstructed from a welter of documents we tell the story of how George Bush and Dick Cheney responded in the first few hours after the attacks and how their responses set in train the events that were to follow in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I hope the balance of the planned News and Current Affairs coverage - with a special extended version of Americana, a documentary about British Muslims and some special editions of our daily sequence programmes, as well as select contributions from Woman's Hour and other programmes - will give listeners as much and as little as they want to hear about that transforming day now, a decade on.

And last night at the lecture the splendid historian, Peter Hennessey, reminded me again that ten years is not really very much time at all. Do listen to his recent Radio 4 documentary, One Hundred Years of Secrecy.

Gwyneth Williams is Controller of BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4 Extra


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