Preview: The Looming Tower

Martin Schmidt (PETER SAARSGARD), Diane Marsh (WRENN SCHMIDT)

Late August 1998. The US bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, has caused uproar. And the missile strike on an al-Qaeda camp in Khost, Afghanistan, is seen as a failure since ‘UBL’ [Usama bin Laden] was not present.

In his FBI office John O’Neill (Jeff Daniels) is annoyed his expenses claims are being queried by a junior official who knows O’Neill is in debt. He is not cheered by Ali Soufan (Tahar Rahim) stating al-Qaeda represents an ideology that is too widespread to be stopped by killing one man like bin Laden – which would make him a martyr.

In Washington Martin Schmidt (Peter Sarsgaard) denies the contact info obtained by the FBI in Nairobi has led the CIA’s ‘Alec Station’ to any fresh intel. But he is lying: surveillance and phone tapping of the man the bomber rang in Yemen, Ahmed Al-Hada, allows Diane Marsh (Wrenn Schmidt) and the female analysts to catalogue his widespread contacts, deducing there is to be a key meeting in Malaysia.

Meanwhile Schmidt’s dogged attempts to get a missile strike on an Arab royal bird hunt annoy CIA director George Tenet (Alec Baldwin), resulting in a big setback.

Visiting family in Pennsylvania, Soufan finds his mother has set him up with a young woman who is bright and amusing. He later admits this to Heather (Ella Rae Peck) on their third date – she is understandably puzzled as to how he regards their own connection.

The camp Walla has now reached a full-on training set-up, and two of the other new arrivals are Saudi citizens Khalid al-Mihdhar (Tawfeek Barhom), who left his wife with her father, Al-Hada, and Nawaf al-Hazmi (Nebras Jamali). Their nationality is key to the next phase of al-Qaeda’s plans.

The Looming Tower – Friday at 9.30pm on BBC2.