Parting Shot

Ali Soufan

- —Jeff Stein

it’s easy to see why hulu would turn lawrence wright’s 2006

Pulitzer Prize–winning book, The Looming Tower, into a TV series. His deepdive account of the Middle Eastern politics and Islamic militant rivalries that culminated in the birth of Al-qaeda was eminently cinematic. The result is the gripping 10-episode adaptation, which began streaming on February 28. The show concentrat­es on the poisonous FBI-CIA rivalries and feckless policies of two administra­tions that effectivel­y provided Osama bin Laden’s network with an opportunit­y. As the 9/11 plot developed in the summer of 2001, one of the leading FBI agents assigned to stop it was Lebanese-born Ali Soufan (played by Tahar Rahim). As seen in the series, he and his boss, John O’neill (Jeff Daniels), encountere­d CIA resistance to sharing informatio­n on Al-qaeda militants in the U.S. “There was never true accountabi­lity for the failure to prevent 9/11,” says Soufan, now CEO of a private intelligen­ce firm. “Hopefully, this show can bring some understand­ing to what happened and put us closer to closure.”

“There was never true accountabi­lity for the failure to prevent . America deserves the truth.”

What’s your favorite scene in the series?

I’m haunted by one. There is a moment when John O’neill tells Martin Schmidt [the CIA counterter­rorism unit chief played by Peter Sarsgaard] that if one American gets killed because of informatio­n withheld by the CIA, he would hold Schmidt to account. The haunting thing is that it was John himself who got killed because of informatio­n not shared. He died in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11.

You testi ed against torture before ongress. How do you feel about Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel—who ran the IA black site where “enhanced interrogat­ion techni ues” were conducted—as IA chief?

I know rsthand how brutal and counterpro­ductive torture is. It’s not just about the moral issue, though that’s crucially important to discuss openly. The torture program has gotten in the way of justice: We still cannot prosecute terrorists, including the mastermind­s behind the USS Cole and 9/11 attacks, in large part because the evidence against them is tainted by torture. The Haspel nomination exempli es the lack of accountabi­lity for the torture committed after 9/11. Did she condone it, or was she following a superior’s orders? Have her feelings changed over the years? These are fair questions to ask at her con rmation hearing.

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