Political Film Society - Newsletter #311 - September 1, 2008

September 1, 2008


TraitorThe first part of Traitor, directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff, sets up the premise that Samir Horn (played by Don Cheadle) is a Muslim terrorist who was born in Sudan, watched his father killed by a car bomb when he was young, became a naturalized American citizen, and as an adult is selling explosives to terrorists in Yemen. Finally, he is outed to film audiences as a CIA mole inside a terrorist organization. Samir is arrested for selling explosives and ends up in prison, where he is befriended by Omar (played by Said Taghmanoui), and the two became terrorist brothers after Omar’s organization arranges a prison escape. Their journey takes them to Marseilles, London, Toronto, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Halifax. (Actual screening is somewhere in France and Morocco, Hamilton in Canada, and Los Angeles). Carter (played by Jeff Daniels) establishes Samir’s CIA identity at various points in the film, but FBI agents Roy Clayton (played by Guy Pearce) and Max Archer (played by Neal McDonough) are unaware of his CIA connection. They interrogate him in Yemen before the prison escape but later realize that he might be bigger fish than they thought and doggedly pursue him later. When Samir and Omar reach France and later London, they are under the command of Fareed (played by Aly Khan), and they are assigned to carry out a simultaneous bombing of fifty transcountry buses after Samir instructs jihadists in the United States on how to use explosives for the job. However, the plot will be foiled, several persons will die, and Samir will singlehandedly emerge as a counterterrorism hero.

What is most interesting about the film, which has considerable suspense, are the subtexts: (1) The FBI does not coordinate with the CIA. (2) The FBI focuses on catching criminals, whereas the CIA seeks the big fish. (3) Double agents experience emotional turmoil. (4) The terrorists believe that the American military footprint in the Middle East unacceptably has brought infidels to the Holy Land. (5) Terrorists who fought the Russians in Afghanistan with American support have the same motivation to fight against the Americans today. (6) The Americans have killed so many innocents in the Middle East that terrorist killing of innocent Americans is acceptable if not required to avenge their death. (7) Terrorists are well financed. (8) The terrorists who direct mass killing are well educated, but they exploit ignorant Muslims of their faith to carry out the dirty work. (9) Terrorists can circumvent electronic surveillance by giving out new computer screennames with instructions as draft letters on the files of the new accounts. (10) The purpose of multiple, simultaneous bombings is to provoke an excessive American counterreaction that will in turn recruit more terrorists. (11) Those who work for the CIA have little future outside that work, since their employment history is blank. (12) The Qu’ran preaches against killing even one innocent person. In fact, however, the FBI lacks the capabilities implied in the film. During early 2008, a Senate report indicated that President George W. Bush had moved to fill only two of twenty-four critically needed FBI senior intelligence officers authorized by Congress, and the FBI reported vacancies in one-third of its counterterrorism positions. Many FBI agents originally assigned to work alongside the CIA and DOD intelligence agents have strongly objected to the former’s interrogation methods, which involved torture. MH