Previously on The Looming Tower, “Boys at War”
Unlike previous episodes, this week mostly takes place in one location: Aden, Yemen
With foreign law enforcement not allowed in Yemen, Ambassador Barbara Bodine of the U.S. Foreign Service has to pull a few strings to gain FBI access into the country to investigate the terrorist attack against the USS Cole that has claimed the lives of 17 soldiers. Captain Amin of the Yemen police force has several suspects but informs agents John O’Neal and Ali Soufan that they must have probable cause before being allowed to interrogate them. Amin won’t even give them the registrant’s information tied to a boat trailer that was recovered from the scene of the bombing. Therefore, Soufan and O’Neal go above Amin’s head and inquire General Ghaleb al-Qamish for assistance.
From the General’s intelligence, the two agents find the house that the al-Qaeda operatives and Walla stayed in order to plan the attack; they even find the video that was taken of the young boy after he had lost his precious innocence but before he had lost his life to such a terrible cause. The FBI agents are also informed that the boat trailer is registered to a Jamal al-Badawi, who they promptly interview under the supervision of Captain Amin. Al-Badawi tells them they should find Walid Mohammed Saleh bin Roshayed bin Attash and Quso if they want real answers. Soufan attempts to get more information but is promptly prevented by Captain Amin who claims prayer time is his reasoning for ending the interview. He even refuses to give them council with Quso, who is on the Yemen police suspect list, simply because he was named by al-Badawi. In retaliation, O’Neal goes to Bodine and rudely demands that she break protocol and get them a meeting with Quosa. She begrudgingly obliges but not without putting in a compliant to the FIB office that eventually gets O’Neal sent back to New York by the end of the episode.
Through another interrogation, O’Neal and Soufan learn that Quosa delivered $36,000 to Walid Mohammed Saleh bin Roshayed bin Attash in Bangkok for a prosthetic leg for a man named Khallah. Khallah turns out to be the operative who traveled with Walla to Yemen from the al-Qaeda terror cell. By the end of the episode, Khallah is being escorted out to some corn fields to lay low for a while. (I believe they now know that the FBI knows of his name because Captain Amin is working for them). Soufan receives no cooperation from Diane Marsh regarding intelligence on Khallah, but the General is helpful once again and provides O’Neal with a photograph of the terrorist and a file of information.
A much as the readers of Project Fandom are probably tired of reading about me complaining about the Diane Marsh/Martin Schmidt relationship, I am tired of writing about it. As he and O’Neal are running into bureaucracy barriers in Yemen, Soufan calls agent Toni (another underdeveloped female character who hasn’t even been donned a last name) to gather any information Alec Station has on several suspects (Khallah, Walid, etc.). When Toni sends an email to Marsh about the suspects, she first gives an annoying sigh at the fact that someone who actually demand she do her job. Even more infuriating, Marsh goes to Schmidt once again because she cannot make any independent decisions. He advises her that Khallah’s involvement in al-Qaeda is an intelligence issue and not criminal and therefore outside FBI jurisdiction. Marsh even goes as far as to remove the photos of Khallah from her al-Qaeda flowchart and lock them in her desk. I am really interested in how strong her reverence for Schmidt will be once the Twin Towers are hit.
I enjoyed the portrayal of how agent Soufan’s ethnicity helped and hindered him during the USS Cole investigation.
Helped: When the FBI plane first lands in Yemen, the agents are quite menacingly greeted with a troupe of heavily armed Yemen police officers. Each agent looks completely petrified until Soufan bravely steps out of the plane and offers the leader and other officers bottled water in Arabic. He is even able to obtain favor for O’Neal by telling the Yemen officials that he is a general. Additionally, a group of kids shoot off rounds into the air right outside the hotel where the FBI agents are working. Soufan runs out into trap when he runs out to investigate only to be held up by a boy with a machine gun. He is able to gain favor with the boy, however, when he speaks to him in Arabic; the boy thankfully lets him go and run off.
Hindered: Captain Amin refuses to even speak Arabic with Soufan because he doesn’t trust him and thinks that he relays Arabic secrets to the FBI. He even assumes Soufan has a blonde, Christiania Aguilera- look-a-like American wife. Suspect Quosa further proclaims Soufan a mere puppet for the corrupt Jews of Israel and a source of shame for his father. Finally, General al-Qamish tells him that he has lost his Arabic polite manner and is pushy. These interactions remind me of how racist white people treated white people who were allies to African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. The only thing worse than being a Negro was being someone who willfully chose to help Negros.
- It was funny to see a man for once get the pestering question dripping with judgment of, “Why aren’t you married?” I loved how the General and Captain seemingly inferred that O’Neal was more of respectable man than Soufan simply because he is married. Meanwhile, O’Neal is anything but a virtuous man.
- While watching a George Bush campaign speech, agent Sullivan poignantly asks if the presidential candidates even know why the FBI is oversees and what they are doing. More importantly, I think most Americans were unaware. Even though I was a child during 2000, I remember the Clinton sex scandal and the stupid chads that plagued Florida voting booths. I haven’t even heard of the bombing of the USS Cole until this show.
- For some reason, I could not shake the feeling the actor playing Jamal al-Badawi was wearing a fake beard. If that is his natural hair, then I apologize.
- Captain Amin is mad shady, and I think he is working for al-Qaeda. He was very eager to interrupt Jamal’s and Quosa’s interrogations. Interesting fact: he knows who Brittney Spears and Christian Aguilera are. Maybe he watched the Mickey Mouse Club.
- Until he spoke, I thought the Yemen leader Soufan offered the first bottle of water to was going to spit the water in Soufan’s face.
The Looming Tower S1E7 Review Score
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Tahar Rahim, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Nezar Alderazi, Sullivan Jones, Erica Cho, Katie Flahive