Preview: The Looming Tower

Peter Sarsgaard in The Looming Tower

Episode three of the 10-part dramatisation of the events that led up the attacks of September 11 2001. The story continues in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998 as FBI agents Kathy Shaughnessy (Virginia Kull) and Floyd Bennet (Sullivan Jones) check out a tip-off on a guest at a small hotel.

The pair pick up Mohamad al-Owhali (Youssef Berouain), a British-born Saudi national and attempt to break his cover story.

Tension between the FBI and CIA continues to undermine progress in the investigation. Things go from bad to worse when O’Neill (Jeff Daniels) demands an FBI rep at the CIA’s ‘Alec Station’ ‘confiscate’ a seized al-Qaeda computer drive to see if a suspect is named on it, only to be discovered by analyst Martin Schmidt (Peter Sarsgaard) who threatens those involved with charges of treason for trying to steal it.

Believing the Clinton administration needs to divert attention from the Monica Lewinski scandal, Schmidt smugly expects approval for a missile strike against a likely al-Qaeda camp. When the satellite phone believed to belong to Osama bin Laden is used there, CIA Director George Tenet (Alec Baldwin) and National Security Co-ordinator Richard Clarke (Michael Stuhlbarg) agree to brief the President.

However, the resulting night strike comes after high-ranking al-Qaeda plotters have left, leaving Schmidt to justify a senseless act of destruction.

The Looming Tower – Friday 9.30pm on BBC2.