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The Looming Tower

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Peter Sargaard is joining the cast.

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Peter Sarsgaard (Jackie) is set for a lead role opposite Jeff Daniels and Tahar Rahim in Hulu’s straight-to-series drama The Looming Tower.

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The Looming Tower traces the rising threat of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda and takes a controversial look at how the rivalry between the CIA and FBI inadvertently might have set the stage for the tragedy of 9/11 and the war in Iraq. Sarsgaard will play Martin Schmidt, a CIA analyst who invariably believes he’s by far the smartest person in the room.

 

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A trailer for the show -

 

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Here’s the first trailer for the limited series from Legendary Television starring Jeff Daniels as John O’Neill, the determined, at times bull-headed chief of the New York FBI’s Counter-Terrorism unit. He is rightly convinced that the U.S. has been targeted for attack by Al-Qaeda but faces deliberately insufficient cooperation from other organs of the federal government, particularly from his counterpart at the frequently antagonistic CIA. Ali Soufan (Tahar Rahim) is a young FBI agent on O’Neill’s anti-terrorism squad who quickly ascends to O’Neill’s protégé due to his brilliance, as well as his fluency in Arabic and Islam.

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A spot to discuss the episodes of Hulu's The Looming Tower. Please note, this is not a catchall topic for the show; this is to specifically discuss the episodes. Check out the main forum for other topics regarding the show.

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Well I made it through two eps.  Not sure how long I’ll last.  The hospital scenes are so sad.  And I don’t really relish watching 911 all over again.  It may have been 17 years ago but I think it’s still too soon for me.  

I do enjoy Jack and Ali, though.  So we’ll see.  I do find myself clock watching so far.  

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I heard a rave review of the first two eps so my expectations were too high. It's good but a bit cheesy, especially with the scenes revealing O'Neill as a polygamist (or maybe he's just a cheater; I was kind of nodding off). And that scene in which a first date is interrupted by an urgent job call is screenwriting 101. I'll keep watching b/c I'm interested in the story and I love Sarsgaard and Camp. Rahim's weird accent is distracting. They could have written in some quirky line about his character being raised in France so he can speak normally.

Edited by numbnut

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This ep was better than the first, probably because John Dahl directed it. Sarsgaard is so good at playing a smug, self-absorbed weasel.

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Michael Stuhlbarg is everywhere lately. Another good ep. I prefer it when they stay away from the mess that is O'Neill's personal life.

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On 3/3/2018 at 7:57 PM, AnonymousBinger said:

Just curious, what's the diff between Usama and Osama? When and why did thge media change from Usama to Osama?

This says Osama is the anglicized version.  I guess the 'usama'/non-anglicized version is this:  Usama ibn Mohammed ibn Awad ibn Ladin

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Of the first four episodes, this was the weakest so far. Seemed too heavy with personal dramas (O'Neill and Soufan) and Schmidt's removal from Alec seemingly underplayed against that. While it's to be expected that an episode or two will be table-setting, coming right after the devastating finish of "Mistakes Were Made," this really fell flat to me.

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On 3/5/2018 at 8:55 AM, Winston9-DT3 said:

This says Osama is the anglicized version.  I guess the 'usama'/non-anglicized version is this:  Usama ibn Mohammed ibn Awad ibn Ladin

Thanks for the explanation!

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I REALLY don’t give a s**t about John O’Neill’s private life. I’m finding that to be the biggest flaw in this so far.

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Unfortunately, the messiness of his personal life very much intersects with his FBI career.

Spoiler

I'm trying to say it without giving away too much, since it may not be appropriate to the thread. Let's just say his personal life leads to some grievous lapses in professional judgment that have negative reverberations. 

Because of that, I do understand why his personal life does have to come into play - it's simply unavoidable. But in this particular episode, the emphasis on his personal problems, and people's personal problems in general, really dragged down the hour. The powerful conclusion of episode three is really negated by the immersion into personal soap operas here.

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E6, "Boys At War" - return to the form of Es 1-3. Chilling final few minutes. Although the little boy's speech about the U.S.S. Cole didn't ring as particularly realistic - as a narrative prop or otherwise - it was well-acted by such a young performer. 

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10 hours ago, CaliCheeseSucks said:

Chilling final few minutes. Although the little boy's speech about the U.S.S. Cole didn't ring as particularly realistic - as a narrative prop or otherwise - it was well-acted by such a young performer. 

I did a little research this morning, according to reports there were two men on the small boat that attacked the Cole, no mention of a young boy.  I realize that a lot of the series is taking dramatic license but I have to wonder why they did this, other than to drive home the point that young kids were affected by the US military action and were turned into terrorists.

I always wonder how they explain difficult subject matter like this to children so young.  He must have been maybe 10 at the most? 

O'Neill must have been a real piece of work.  I wonder how much of his story as portrayed here is truth. 

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1 hour ago, teddysmom said:

O'Neill must have been a real piece of work.  I wonder how much of his story as portrayed here is truth. 

The O'Neill stuff is very spot on - his personal life was unbelievably messy. Frontline did a segment on him back in 2002. (Obviously, real-life spoilers there, if you're not familiar with his trajectory.)

http://www.pbs.org/video/frontline-the-man-who-knew/

Edited by CaliCheeseSucks
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1 hour ago, CaliCheeseSucks said:

The O'Neill stuff is very spot on - his personal life was unbelievably messy. Frontline did a segment on him back in 2002. (Obviously, real-life spoilers there, if you're not familiar with his trajectory.)

http://www.pbs.org/video/frontline-the-man-who-knew/

I've been lurking because I haven't had much to add, but I did want second that O'Neill's personal life was very messy and did have a bearing on his career.

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1 hour ago, HunterHunted said:

I've been lurking because I haven't had much to add, but I did want second that O'Neill's personal life was very messy and did have a bearing on his career.

 

Spoiler

Unless I missed or have forgotten it (chronologically, it should have happened already) they seem to have left out the incident with letting the girlfriend - the one Annie Parisse is based on - into a safe house too. Maybe they plan on working it in by moving it later in the composited timeline. 

 

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A spot to discuss the book The Looming Tower is based on, as well as the real life of the people in the book and show. Please note; entering this topic may spoil you as to future events on the show!

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Possibly a bit on the petty side but "The General" had one of the worst uses of looping I think I've ever heard in a series. During the scene between O'Neill and the General in the Plaza, the General is saying (in English), "What does President Clinton think when he puts this battleship raising up into our harbor?"

Except that "battleship" was clearly looped by another performer in post, a difference which stands out as the actor playing the General is using a regional appropriate accent while the looper's voice is clearly quite American English. 

Other than that, it was good to get an almost wholly-investigative centered episode. 

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Looks like O'Neill has finally screwed up enough to get his butt forced out of the FBI. It's a big loss for both the FBI and the country. 

The CIA finally said something sensible about why they might not want to share information with the FBI. However considering the time sensitive nature of the investigation, they were being the most petty bunch of assholes.

However, I can't fault the incoming administration too much because the learning curve is so great and it is hard to suss out all of these nuances. Furthermore, Texas has a particularly weak governor's office that Bush wasn't equipped to deal with all of the duties.

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I understand keeping the Middle East stable, but for fuck's sake lady. You have an imminent threat and you're worried about pissing off the people that were allowing this shit to happen as long as they held onto power? 

I'm assuming she wasn't included in The Sisterhood, who worked so diligently to find Bin Laden. What a bitch. 

That last meeting with Condi Rice (and the one previous with Clark trying to explain the Middle East to her was terrifying. 
Blood of 3000 dead Americans on your hands and the hands of your fellow Senior Bush Admin officials, Condi, but go ahead and enjoy your happy little life. 

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"A Very Special Relationship" definitely brought home the nauseating sense of dread about what we all know is coming. I am not looking forward to the final two eps.

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On 4/5/2018 at 10:10 AM, teddysmom said:

I understand keeping the Middle East stable, but for fuck's sake lady. You have an imminent threat and you're worried about pissing off the people that were allowing this shit to happen as long as they held onto power? 

It's kind of a catch 22. The US needed the assistance of the individuals and parties in power to pursue their investigations and find the terrorists, but the parties in power allowed these situations to occur and in some cases were the cause of the formation of these terrorist organizations.

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1 hour ago, HunterHunted said:

It's kind of a catch 22. The US needed the assistance of the individuals and parties in power to pursue their investigations and find the terrorists, but the parties in power allowed these situations to occur and in some cases were the cause of the formation of these terrorist organization

I know that but there comes a time when if your "ally" is allowing shit to go on that's going to get people killed, they aren't that great an ally. Saudi Arabia has been fucking us over for years, with the promise they'd keep the Middle East stable. We see how being pals with them works out.  Oil and air bases while allowing terrorists to have safe haven isn't a very fair deal, imo. 

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@teddysmom I get all of that, but the thing I appreciated most about the episode was the CIA finally giving voice to their concerns. For most of the story, it's seemed like they were just being pissy about the FBI stepping on their toes and taking over their jurisdiction. Finally something they said and did made sense even if I didn't agree with it.

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52 minutes ago, HunterHunted said:

@teddysmom I get all of that, but the thing I appreciated most about the episode was the CIA finally giving voice to their concerns. For most of the story, it's seemed like they were just being pissy about the FBI stepping on their toes and taking over their jurisdiction. Finally something they said and did made sense even if I didn't agree with it.

Agree!   Why couldn't CIA explain that to FBI instead of like you said being so pissy about it. Now that the public knows what was going on, and what the cost of this little pissing match cost us, as well as the Bush Admin having their heads up their asses,  I can't imagine being a 9/11 family and living with that. Like Clarke said "you're government let you down, I let you down". 

I can't even repeat what I was calling that one female CIA analyst. 

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I've worked in government, legislative and executive (at an agency). The burdens for an incoming administration are so huge and ensuring the continuity is nearly impossible. One of the biggest strangest issues is navigating how an incoming administration likes to have briefings and memos. It's so weird. And important info can languish because the career bureaucrats are trying to figure out style and tone for providing info to the new administration. Even worse is when a new administration comes in with an agenda about what the "real" problems are. It's also a massive problem when a new administration doesn't appoint agency heads, directors, deputies, and other appointed staff in a timely fashion because then everything ends up funneling up through campaign and some transition staff who are not equipped to handle these decisions.

The Bush administration was probably better equipped to handle the transition than most new administrations, but that doesn't mean that they weren't swamped too and didn't make some of the same mistakes.

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So I think this is the right thread here (because the only other option might be the one for book/spoiler but that has NO posts in it) ... anyway, in the most recent episode (Episode 7? Yesterday's episode?) there was a scene and a comment that both elicited huge "HOLY SHIT!" from Mr. Snappy and me where, if I have this right, during the clusterfuck that was people ignoring important possible hints of mass destruction in emails and memos, someone had noted that one of the students at the flying school in Minneapolis (I thought they had said Moussaoui but I don't think that would be correct) had said something to his instructor along the lines of "I don't have to learn how to land a plane because I won't be landing it" or something to that effect.

Anyone remember that? That seemed ... just ... stunning.

BUT ... I am concurrently reading the book "Looming Tower" and today just came to that section and in the book, while there are absolutely suspicious comments and weird things said and done by said student in Minnesota that was relayed to the NY office (can't remember if it was FBI or CIA) about him being especially interested in topics such as lower New York City air traffic and whether or not the pilots kept the door to the cockpit closed, there was NO MENTION AT ALL IN THE BOOK of the student saying they didn't need to learn how to land because they weren't going to need to land a plane. 

Is it even possible they put that part about not needing to land a plane into the show for (fictional) dramatic effect? Because we were both stunned to think that was actually reported and ignored. 

Also weird to be reading the book and realizing that it was written while bin Laden was still alive. 

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6 hours ago, PamelaMaeSnap said:

So I think this is the right thread here (because the only other option might be the one for book/spoiler but that has NO posts in it) ... anyway, in the most recent episode (Episode 7? Yesterday's episode?) there was a scene and a comment that both elicited huge "HOLY SHIT!" from Mr. Snappy and me where, if I have this right, during the clusterfuck that was people ignoring important possible hints of mass destruction in emails and memos, someone had noted that one of the students at the flying school in Minneapolis (I thought they had said Moussaoui but I don't think that would be correct) had said something to his instructor along the lines of "I don't have to learn how to land a plane because I won't be landing it" or something to that effect.

Anyone remember that? That seemed ... just ... stunning.

BUT ... I am concurrently reading the book "Looming Tower" and today just came to that section and in the book, while there are absolutely suspicious comments and weird things said and done by said student in Minnesota that was relayed to the NY office (can't remember if it was FBI or CIA) about him being especially interested in topics such as lower New York City air traffic and whether or not the pilots kept the door to the cockpit closed, there was NO MENTION AT ALL IN THE BOOK of the student saying they didn't need to learn how to land because they weren't going to need to land a plane. 

Is it even possible they put that part about not needing to land a plane into the show for (fictional) dramatic effect? Because we were both stunned to think that was actually reported and ignored. 

Also weird to be reading the book and realizing that it was written while bin Laden was still alive. 

I haven't read The Looming Tower but that moment didn't pop out to me as questionable or a composited because it rang a bell. From The New York Times, December 22, 2001:

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An instructor at a Minnesota flight school warned the F.B.I. in August of his suspicion that a student who was later identified as a part of Osama bin Laden's terror network might be planning to use a commercial plane loaded with fuel as a weapon, a member of Congress and other officials said today.

The officials, who were briefed by the school, said the instructor warned the Federal Bureau of Investigation in urgent tones about the terrorist threat posed by the student, Zacarias Moussaoui. Mr. Moussaoui, a French citizen of Morrocan descent, was indicted last week on charges of conspiring in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Representative James L. Oberstar of Minnesota, who received the briefing and is the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation Committee, said the instructor called the bureau several times to find someone in authority who seemed willing to act on the information.

Mr. Oberstar said the instructor's warnings could not have been more blunt. The representative said, ''He told them, 'Do you realize that a 747 loaded with fuel can be used as a bomb?' ''

https://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/22/us/a-nation-challenged-the-suspect-flight-school-warned-fbi-of-suspicions.html

Edited by CaliCheeseSucks · Reason: formatting
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Thank you!!! I did remember it was Moussaoui (who was not one of the hijackers and maybe that's why) but I was surprised it was not in the book! Stunning.

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13 hours ago, PamelaMaeSnap said:

Thank you!!! I did remember it was Moussaoui (who was not one of the hijackers and maybe that's why) but I was surprised it was not in the book! Stunning.

I was remembering how he was at first called "the 20th hijacker" but then that designation was rolled back. Some googling suggests that it is believed there were a number of 'backup hijackers' in the country, in the event any of the cells had an issue with a member. 

It's very odd it wasn't in the book at all, though!

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Exactly .. I definitely remember there was a 20th hijacker and now I'm guessing it was him because of this ... but according to the book there were additional backup hijackers here because the original plan also included Los Angeles and I think the Sears Tower in Chicago. 

It's a VERY good book ... only the last half or even maybe just 30-40% is where the series picks up. 

Interesting to see which people in the book have their real names used in the series and which don't ... for example, "Chesky" (Bill Camp, not sure if I'm spelling his name right) is allegedly a composite of a few people but clearly, reading the book, primarily based on a man named Dan Coleman. Martin Schimdt is definitely Mike Scheuer (that's confirmed). Some of the women (the FBI woman, can't remember her name in the show but it's Gina Corso IRL) ... can't remember the names of O'Neill's many girlfriends in the show or whether they change them from the book. 

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8 hours ago, PamelaMaeSnap said:

Exactly .. I definitely remember there was a 20th hijacker and now I'm guessing it was him because of this ... but according to the book there were additional backup hijackers here because the original plan also included Los Angeles and I think the Sears Tower in Chicago. 

It's a VERY good book ... only the last half or even maybe just 30-40% is where the series picks up. 

Interesting to see which people in the book have their real names used in the series and which don't ... for example, "Chesky" (Bill Camp, not sure if I'm spelling his name right) is allegedly a composite of a few people but clearly, reading the book, primarily based on a man named Dan Coleman. Martin Schimdt is definitely Mike Scheuer (that's confirmed). Some of the women (the FBI woman, can't remember her name in the show but it's Gina Corso IRL) ... can't remember the names of O'Neill's many girlfriends in the show or whether they change them from the book. 

Annie Parisse is most likely Valerie James, who many of O'Neill's friends thought *was* his wife when he died but I know Parisse's character has a different name.

Diane Marsh is definitely Alfreda Frances Bikowsky, who was also the primary basis for "Maya" in Zero Dark Thirty. The CIA did an amazing job of snowing Hollywood into making her the heroine of the ZDT story; Bikowsky's CV is littered with intelligence failures, even though she continued an upward career trajectory. In 2014, she and Scheuer married.

Does the book address the odd harem of of seemingly all-women underlings that Scheuer/Schmidt is shown cultivating at Alec Station (the FBI's Vince, not withstanding)?

Edited by CaliCheeseSucks
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7 hours ago, CaliCheeseSucks said:

Annie Parisse is most likely Valerie James, who many of O'Neill's friends thought *was* his wife when he died but I know Parisse's character has a different name.

Diane Marsh is definitely Alfreda Frances Bikowsky, who was also the primary basis for "Maya" in Zero Dark Thirty. The CIA did an amazing job of snowing Hollywood into making her the heroine of the ZDT story; Bikowsky's CV is littered with intelligence failures, even though she continued an upward career trajectory. In 2014, she and Scheuer married.

Does the book address the odd harem of of seemingly all-women underlings that Scheuer/Schmidt is shown cultivating at Alec Station (the FBI's Vince, not withstanding)?

Yes, Annie Parisse is Valerie James and Diane Marsh is Alfreda ... I couldn't remember the real names ... did NOT know that she and Scheuer married ... I wonder if she had some input on the scripting here to get that "twoo love" angle ...

And no, that angle was not addressed AT ALL (as far as I can remember) and would be fascinating to me ... the book really focused on O'Neill. To a lesser extent on Coleman. Very little on Scheuer. Sounds like you should be writing the next installment! I'd watch your version for sure ... 

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Well, the finale fell emotionally flat for me. I was expecting a gut-punch. The cross-cutting to and emphasis on Ali in Yemen, while important in terms of information, siphoned off the energy and focus. 

It also made no sense to me that Vince would have been sitting on the side of the G.W. Parkway for what would have had to have been hours. I presume that is where he had stopped his car, going out towards Quantico, while the traffic on the other side - leading to the Pentagon - was stopped completely. A small nitpick, I am sure, but it sort of plays into what about this segment didn't work. The pacing was off, the focus was off, it didn't settle into a smooth, narrative POV. 

Edited by CaliCheeseSucks
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On 4/18/2018 at 1:24 PM, CaliCheeseSucks said:

Well, the finale fell emotionally flat for me. I was expecting a gut-punch. The cross-cutting to and emphasis on Ali in Yemen, while important in terms of information, siphoned off the energy and focus. 

It also made no sense to me that Vince would have been sitting on the side of the G.W. Parkway for what would have had to have been hours. I presume that is where he had stopped his car, going out towards Quantico, while the traffic on the other side - leading to the Pentagon - was stopped completely. A small nitpick, I am sure, but it sort of plays into what about this segment didn't work. The pacing was off, the focus was off, it didn't settle into a smooth, narrative POV. 

And why was there no one behind him? I know it's ridiculous to think about something like that but was he like the last guy who got on the GWP? It seemed like ever shot of him after all that time there was NO ONE behind him. I know there's a CIA entrance/exit on there somewhere (I only drove it for my commute for 20 years LOL) but still ... 

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36 minutes ago, PamelaMaeSnap said:

And why was there no one behind him? I know it's ridiculous to think about something like that but was he like the last guy who got on the GWP? It seemed like ever shot of him after all that time there was NO ONE behind him. I know there's a CIA entrance/exit on there somewhere (I only drove it for my commute for 20 years LOL) but still ... 

Yeah, it made no sense that he was stuck on that side of the Parkway with no one else in sight, while the opposite direction was a bottleneck. Very odd.

I wish they'd gone from the last scene of O'Neill in the Tower to perhaps a clearer time jump forward to Soufan's continued intelligence gathering after the fact. Then they could have gone back to 9/11 for the balance of the episode, and closed out with the information about O'Neill's fate. I guess they wanted to give Rahim his big "Brother John is dead" scene but that diversion just drained the emotion of what had happened. Containing those different segments more thoroughly would have been more effective. 

I'm also torn on the answering machine reveal. It's based on a real detail, though of course, in reality it was multiple messages to multiple women. But it just seemed terribly hokey and unnecessary. I did think the scene with Camp and Parisse was otherwise quite moving. 

Edited by CaliCheeseSucks

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Agree the finale left something to be desired. 

Did the scene with Ali happen on the same day where Abu told him "I'll tell you everything". 

No matter how far we get from that day, it's still a punch in the stomach to watch the footage.  I see a huge airliner in a clear blue sky and for a split second flash back to that morning. And I'm out here in Indianapolis.  How does anyone ever recover from this? 

I do want to punch that CIA bitch in the face. "I didn't hear a question".  Man you are one stone cold bitch. 

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2 hours ago, teddysmom said:

I do want to punch that CIA bitch in the face. "I didn't hear a question".  Man you are one stone cold bitch. 

History will not be kind to Alfreda Frances Bikowsky (Marsh) or Michael Scheuer (Schmidt).

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 I don't get that the Maya character from Zero Dark Thirty was entirely based on Alfreda, which is a story going around. I thought she was a composite of the women who worked in the group called "The Sisterhood" and were the ones who developed the intel about where he was.  In the movie she's portrayed as being very new to CIA when she's posted to Pakistan, and this Alfreda woman had been in the CIA for some time. 

Also, Maya was always trying to get info from other agencies, beating the drum to get people to help each other, which I don't get from the portrayal of the woman in The Looming Tower. 

Quote

History will not be kind to Alfreda Frances Bikowsky (Marsh) or Michael Scheuer (Schmidt).

Yeah after this show, she might want to really go undercover.  It's something we all knew, but to see it and know what they were doing. The scene were Ali calls the Alec Station agent and he hems and haws about what he knew.  Why he let that bitch railroad him with "You will be handcuffed and jailed". I would have gone straight to someone higher up and informed on her. You aren't going to be jailed for sharing info that would let people know Al Quaeda is in the US. 

Edited by teddysmom
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Well, it turned out there really was no point to all those scenes with John O’Neill with his wife, girlfriend and mistress. It had no relevance whatsoever to the overall story. I really wish I could unsee that moment when Jeff Daniels was screwing his mistress from behind. I didn’t need to see that in 1988, much less 2018.

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2 hours ago, TimWil said:

Well, it turned out there really was no point to all those scenes with John O’Neill with his wife, girlfriend and mistress. It had no relevance whatsoever to the overall story. I really wish I could unsee that moment when Jeff Daniels was screwing his mistress from behind. I didn’t need to see that in 1988, much less 2018.

It very much had a point: His personal issues were a huge part of the FBI's pushing him out of the job.

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I agree that flipping between Ali and 9/11 really did kill a lot of the tension in the finale. I wish they either had another episode or rearranged the episode order to have one episode of the actual attack and then one episode of Ali being in Yemen. 

I actually think that the second-to-last episode would have made a more effective ending. Something about the systematic screw-ups really hit home in that episode. Especially when they used the real testimony of Condi and George Tenet and you realize, "holy shit, these people fucked up." 

Really as depressing as 9/11 was, everything that comes after is worse. Afghanistan, Iraq, rendition, Abu Ghraib, the entire Middle East being set on fire. And a lot of the people who were responsible for the screw-ups that led to the attack probably gained more power and stature after it. 

ETA: And holy shit, if anyone wants to hear what Michael Scheur, the real person that Martin was based on, said about John McNeil after 9/11:

 

Edited by loki567
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Why he let that bitch railroad him with "You will be handcuffed and jailed". I would have gone straight to someone higher up and informed on her. You aren't going to be jailed for sharing info that would let people know Al Quaeda is in the US. 

I am certainly no expert on what goes on inside the intelligence community, but I do know enough to know that if the CIA wants to pursue charges on someone for accessing and passing on information they haven't been cleared to do so, that person is behind the 8-ball, so to speak. It don't matter if the information you want to pass along thwarts Thanos from invading Earth, at the very least your career is, in a word, fucked. 

And ironically, one of the real life inspirations for the character of Vince, Mark Rossini, in fact ended up pleading guilty to illegally accessing information. He did not go to prison, but rather was sentenced to one years probation. Though I imagine prison was very much a possibility. This all occurred years after 9/11 and was in regards to FBI files, not CIA files. It also had nothing to do with terrorism. 

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