Since it's obvious that Nancy Pelosi's choice to be House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Silvestre Reyes, has been daydreaming through committee meetings since 9/11, here's an idea on how to educate him that might actually hold his interest: Send the Chairman copies of cable network Showtime's superb, just completed antiterrorism series, Sleeper Cell.
At least then he would know that Al Qaeda is a Sunni organization. And, after witnessing a scene where a deep cover terrorist is so enraged by a moderate Shi'ite Imam that he physically attacks him over a 700 year old dispute, Reyes would at least not be ignorant of the diffrerence between Shia and Sunni.
In fact, since ol' Silvestre seems to know more about Democrat talking points than about counter-terrorism, someone should send him a DVD set containing last season's Sleeper Cell as well as this season's. While it won't make him the expert he ought to be, the following tidbits might prepare him for the shock he will no doubt receive when he is forced to start dealing with real world information:
- Unlike the portrayals in other movies, terrorists are more likely to be financed by Wahabbist sheiks than by WASP billionaires or by slick poker players at swanky European casinos.
- Surveillance of radical mosques and Islamic centers is not religious persecution but a matter of survival.
- The war in Iraq is very important to Al Qaeda leaders who do NOT consider it a sideshow.
- The conspiracy theories put out by the allies of Silvestre's party like Moveon.org and their ilk, along with their calls for American weakness and exaggeration of enemy victories really do encourage the other side to fight on.
- High value Al Qaeda targets don't break because they are threatened with imprisonment or asked in a constitutionally prettified way to cooperate.
Sleeper Cell: American Terror is the show's second season, in which FBI undercover agent Darwin Al-Sayid (an intense but low key Michael Ealy) who is himself both a black man and also a faithful Muslim disturbed by the radicals' hijacking of his faith, infiltrates an Al Qaeda cell operating in Los Angeles. The story picks up immediately after Season 1, where Darwyn thwarted a chemical attack on the Rose Bowl.
The leader of the sleeper cell, Farik (played with a menacing mix of sophisticated slickness and evangelical fervor by Israeli actor Oded Fehr) is in custody and enduring aggressive questioning by the CIA as a result of the prior attack, disrupted by Darwyn. Because Darwyn's cover is still intact, he is selected by the imams up the Al Qaeda chain of command to lead a new cell of terrorists.
The cell this time includes a Latino Jose Padilla-lookalike who was recruited by a Muslim prison chaplain, a female Dutch radical whose husband was "martyred" in Iraq, and a homosexual Saudi mechanical engineer whose private life under more wraps than his jihadi activities.
What gives Sleeper Cell its unique edge—and makes it unlike any other television show dealing with terrorism--is that rather than use Darwyn's religion as a politically correct mitigating factor to imply that the terrorists' Islamism is beside the point, that they are just bad guys who happen to be Muslims, series creator Kamran Pasha, himself a Muslim, uses this device to directly engage the jihadi ideology.
American radicals also take a huge hit in both seasons of Sleeper Cell. In the first season, one of the cell members is the spoiled son of a stridently antiwar, anti-American Berkley professor. This season, Ilija—a survivior of the take down that broke the cell in the first season, is hiding out with a woman who obviously spends a lot of time on left wing websites. "You know," she enthuses, "Every time we have sex, it's like the ultimate f--- you to Bush, Cheney and the whole 9/11 plot. I just keep picturing Giuliani and the rest of those assholes supervising the whole thing from that $15 million bunker on the twenty-third floor of Building 7. You know that's where they broadcast the homing signal from, to make sure the planes would hit the towers."
The smirk on her Al Qaeda operative lover's face who knows full well what Al Qaeda is capable of is priceless as he answers. "I know, and the Pentagon was actually hit by a CIA Global Hawk drone so the administration could start an endless war and turn America into a police state."
We also meet Darwyn's father--played by series director Charles S. Dutton with his signature bristle of barely controlled fury-- who is a bow-tie wearing member of the Nation of Islam. Dad is mighty ticked off that Darwin works for the FBI, and doesn't respond well when his son points out that it was HIS crowd who "killed Malcom" and that his dad's grievances are all over 40 years old.
On the down side, the producers of Sleeper Cell feel the need to remind us this is pay cable, so they get to show sex and nudity. With the gay subplot, I'm sure they thought they were being really daring with several very explicit scenes. There is, however, a delicious irony in cell member Salim's conversations with his boyfriend when he points out what would happen to them in his own country if they were discovered—this at the same time that we see Salim working to force Sharia law on the rest of the world.
But for all of its cable network grittiness and occasional stabs at cynicism, Sleeper Cell is relentlessly pro-American. Even if it doesn't wear its heart on its sleeve, Darwyn's responses to rhetorical attacks on his country are stirring.
When an Al Qaeda higher up in a climactic battle demands of Darwyn, "What kind of true Muslim works for the Americans?" Darwyn's reply is: "I don't work for the Americans—I AM American." And when his father challenges Darwin by asking what color his boss is and how much he is involved in the decision making process, he answers, "It's not my strategy, but it IS my war." The discussion, which involved Darwyn's army service—his dad was drafted during Vietnam, he volunteered later on, which drives the father's resentment— even implies that the war in Iraq is part of the seamless whole of fighting Islamic terror.
Get the original Sleeper Cell on DVD. Get this one on DVD when it comes out. Watch Sleeper Cell III on Showtime next year. This is television that tells it like it is about terrorism and leaves no doubt that America is at war.