“Like any piece of art, it asks a question, and I think the question is, could this happen again?” says Jeff Daniels about “The Looming Tower,” the Hulu limited series in which he plays John O’Neil, the real-life FBI agent who investigated al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in the years leading up to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning nonfiction book by Lawrence Wright, the series explores the internal conflicts between the FBI and CIA and how those conflicts may have left America critically vulnerable. Watch our exclusive video interview with Daniels above.
Daniels hadn’t read the book and didn’t know these specific historical details before taking part in the seires, but when he read the script he felt it was “an important story … I was fascinated by this whole lead up to 9/11 and how it came to be, how it could have possibly been prevented.” He echoes the famous words of Richard Clarke, who had been the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council leading up to 9/11: “Your government failed you, and this is the story of that.”
Part of that failure comes from the in-fighting between agencies. O’Neil had a “bull-in-a-china-shop way of behaving in a meeting.” He “didn’t have a political bone in his body,” but he “believed he was right and fought for that.” And the conflict between government officials demonstrated that divisions at home may be just as dangerous as threats from abroad. So where does that leave us in 2018? Possibly in need of a wake-up call. “9/11 happened when the government was fully staffed with knowledgeable, brilliant, experienced people,” Daniels explains. “Where are we now? We’re not fully staffed, and you might want to take out brilliant and knowledgeable because not everybody qualifies.”
They say those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, so the most important take-away from “The Looming Tower” may be, “Did we learn anything from that or are we more divided than ever?”
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