Last night’s episode highlighted the enormous challenges faced by the United States Secret Service, perhaps the most unsung of all federal law enforcement agencies.
No one talks about the “Silent Service” very much, which suits the agents just fine. While their missions have expanded much in recent years to include investigating financial crimes (so-called “white collar” crimes), identity theft, counterfeiting, and computer related crime, their primary mission remains as it has since 1901 – the protection of the President.
In that thankless role, several agents have given their lives or been severely wounded as a result of their dedication to their mission – to place themselves as “human shields” around the President to protect his life at the expense of their own. Most recently, Special Agent Timothy McCarthy was shot in the abdomen when he deliberately placed himself in the path of a bullet intended for Ronald Reagan. Video of the assassination attempt clearly shows Agent McCarthy, his arms akimbo in order to place more of his body between the shooter and the President, moving sideways as the gun tracked President Reagan, taking a bullet that could very well have struck the President.
(Reagan was not hit by a direct shot but rather by a ricochet that struck the inside of the open door to the limo.)
And a uniformed member of the Secret Service, White House Police Private Leslie William Coffelt, was shot and killed defending President Truman who was staying in The Blair House across the street from the White House in 1951 while the mansion was being renovated. Two Puerto Rican nationalists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, attacked Blair House, wounding Coffelt severely who was on duty guarding the front door. As the assassins entered the foyer, they ran into a hail of bullets from Secret Service Agents including the wounded Coffelt who fired a bullet while lying prone on the ground hitting Torresola in the head and killing him instantly. Two other Uniformed Secret Service members, Donald Birdzell and Joseph Downs, were also wounded in the attack and recovered. Coffelt died later that day.
Oscar Collazo was convicted and sentenced to death but his sentence was commuted to life in prison by President Truman. In 1979, Jimmy Carter commuted the assassin’s life term to time served and he was released from prison.
Despite these heroics (and many more that rarely make the news), the Secret Service still desires to maintain a low profile for the most part. Only when the threat level is elevated will the agents make an ostentatious show of their numbers as well as how well armed they are, all the better to discourage assassins.
Instead, the Secret Service relies much more on prevention than on actual protection. To accomplish this, they have the most modern. up to date tools available through the National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), a unit that makes much of what the fictional CTU does pale in comparison.
The NTAC draws intelligence and expertise from all over the government and disseminates their findings to law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. While they may not have as many cool gadgets that CTU purports to show, they have massive amounts of data that can identify and track potential threats. Sometimes, acting on some of this data leads to the Secret Service showing up at the door of bloggers, or high school kids,, or even elderly letter writers who make innocuous comments about the President.
Some see this vigilance as overkill or even ascribe more sinister motives to these visits. What all of us fail to realize is that the Secret Service is required by an Act of Congress to investigate all threats or potential threats to the President regardless of who they are from or how serious agents might consider them to be.
Last night’s episode revealed the service at its best and perhaps their worst. Should they have been able to detect the bomb parts in Carson’s briefcase? One would hope in real life, that such would be the case but I’m not so sure. The Agent inspecting the contents of the briefcase appeared to do a thorough enough job, going so far as to make sure that the dictation device that would contain the assembled bomb actually worked. It may be that other bomb parts that were unassembled would have been noticeable to a real Secret Service Agent but we just don’t know. Clearly, in the aftermath of any such assassination attempt, a review of how the bomb made it by security would have top priority. And if a weakness was found either in training or procedures, you can be sure that the Service would rectify that weakness to the best of their ability.
It is also worth noting that at least 3 agents raced to protect the President when Assad yelled “bomb” just before the explosion and that at least two appeared to have died. If so, they gave their lives as they had sworn to do; upholding their oaths to protect the President with their lives if necessary.
A thankless job for which all Americans should be grateful that there are men and women possessing the courage and dedication to perform this necessary and hazardous duty.
We find Gredenko at what appears to be a deserted air strip waiting for that mysterious shipment from Las Vegas. He calls Fayed and tells him that once he has delivery, that setting up and reconfiguring the electronics will take a couple of hours. Somehow, these two are going to have to hook up so that the two parts of the plot can come together. When that happens, expect one or both sides to try and betray the other. The ultra-nationalist Gredenko and the fanatical jihadist Fayed are like oil and water; the idea that they will mix and complete the plot together doesn’t seem likely. Gredenko makes this even more likely when he sneers “â€œThe Arabs and the West can destroy each other,” which could mean he will eliminate one of the only links in the plot who is aware of his involvement.
Besides, the Gods demand that both crooks try and double cross each other. If so, bet on Fayed to come out on top.
Back at the White House, the President gets a visit from an ambassador of presumably Middle Eastern origin who is informed of Assad’s upcoming speech to his radical jihadist buddies across the world asking them to “lay down their arms” and support this peace initiative.
The more I think about this, the sillier it is. The fact that any President of the United States would take this “peace overture” seriously is even sillier. And silliest of all perhaps is the notion that the many and disparate terrorist groups around the world – including narco-terrorist organizations like the Columbian based FARC or the communist inspired “Shining Path” in Peru who are responsible for hundreds of innocent deaths would care what one Middle Eastern terrorist was doing.
Having pointed this out, if we haven’t learned yet to suspend our belief in reality when watching this show then we are almost certainly not watching it anymore. It makes it all the more entertaining to watch as the left continues to hyperventilate about the show and its plot lines, drawing some kind of parallel between what happens in real life and what happens in this fictional drama.
The ambassador seems offended at the President’s demand that his government issue a statement supporting Assad’s efforts – that is until Palmer makes it clear in no uncertain terms that if another nuke goes off, the ambassador’s country is Number One with a bullet on our hit list.
Back at CTU, Jack calls Bill and tells him for the first time that his father is in on the plot and that he will fill him in later. What Jack really needs from Bill is authorization to speak to former President Jellyfish who has offered to help in the search for Gredenko. Jack asks Bill why the terrorist supporting Logan has not been punished for his crimes and we are informed that after pleading guilty to “obstruction of justice,” Logan has retired to his estate and is under house arrest.
Once again, the reason given is that we poor citizens just couldn’t handle the bad news that our President is not only a crook, but a traitor as well. Do you think that one day, the powers that be will stop treating us like children, hiding information that they believe might upset us?
Outside the hotel, Jack tells Marilyn and Josh to get back to CTU where they will be “safe.” Given the porous security we’ve seen in the past at CTU headquarters, they would probably be better off just about anywhere else including their own home. At any rate, Jack tells Josh (still wild speculation that the kid is Jack’s) that one day he will tell him what a creep his dad really was and how he masterminded plots to kill thousands of Americans. Well, perhaps he wasn’t quite as graphic but the kid isn’t stupid and knows enough about his dad and now his grandfather that he realizes he is part of perhaps the most spectacularly dysfunctional family in America. Maybe in world history although the Medici’s could give the Bauers a run for that title.
And judging by that special moment shared by Jack and Marilyn before they parted – the tender caress and soulful exchange of glances – my guess is that Audrey has her work cut out for her if she expects to retain Jack’s fealty. Perhaps the issue could be settled between the two women at 20 paces with revolvers. More likely, a good old fashioned cat fight would decide the issue – preferably in a ring filled with mud or jello. Think of the ratings bonanza for that episode.
After guiding Carson through the Secret Service checkpoint with the unassembled bomb in his briefcase, Reed tells him about Lennox and how he has had to restrain him lest the plot be discovered. Carson, who works for the “Abbot Institute” (sounds an awful lot like the conservative think tank Hoover Institution), calmly informs Reed that Lennox will have to be killed, preferably by making his death appear to be a suicide. But Reed is nothing if not loyal and objects saying that once the Muslims are being rounded up and the missiles start flying, Lennox will be back on board. Carson is unconvinced and begins to assemble the bomb.
Poor Morris is having a devil of a time concentrating on his work and Chloe suspects the worst – that he’s been drinking again. She asks if he has called his AA sponsor and Morris says that he has although when he would have found the time is not apparent. As Morris goes off to play with the server, Chloe surreptitiously finds the number to Morris’ sponsor and calls, leaving a message for the sponsor to call her back. Nadia also gets in on the controversy, believing that Morris is incapable of performing his duties by eventually deferring to Chloe’s judgement.
The confrontation between Jack and Logan is tense but delicious. You can almost see Jack’s hands itching to place themselves around the ex-President’s neck. Insincere and as oily as ever, Jellyfish tells Jack that Gredenko has a conduit at the Russian consulate in Los Angeles, the Consul General himself Anatoly Markov, who probably knows where Gredenko is and what he’s up to. Logan informs Jack that only he can get Markov to spill the beans about Gredenko because he was involved in all the plots from last year and he can threaten to expose the CG to his superiors. When Jack sneeringly asks what Logan wants in return, Jellyfish claims he got religion and only wants redemption.
Jack is unconvinced but with precious little else to go on calls the President for the Executive Order that would free Logan temporarily. Palmer too is skeptical but after talking to the man who murdered his brother, nevertheless gives the go ahead.
At the deserted air strip, Gredenko finally welcomes the shipment from Las Vegas: two small US army aerial drones that will presumably be used to drop the bombs.
This is actually an excellent choice by the terrorists. The drones are too small to be tracked by all but the most sophisticated radar, are virtually noiseless, and have a huge range. The fact that there are three bombs but only two drones makes how they deploy these weapons a very interesting problem that I’m sure the writers will either ignore or invent some lame situation where they can be re-loaded. Judging by the size of the drones, they would be incapable of carrying more than one bomb at a time.
Back at CTU, things are getting dicey for Morris. Bill tries to relieve him but still in the grip of his dry drunk, Morris announces to everyone in the conference room that even though he has had a very bad day, he can still do his job. Bill relents and allows Morris to continue over Nadia’s objections. Chloe also has her doubts which are fed a few minutes later by Nadia who shows her where Morris has evidently made a simple mistake in one of his reports. When she confronts Morris, he dismisses it as inconsequential, charging Nadia with having it in for him just to prove that she was right to question his abilities in front of Bill. Chloe just doesn’t know what to make of things and starts to obsess over the problem.
Back at Logan’s ranch, Jack proves that he is always prepared by showing up in a suit looking like a million bucks in order to pass himself off as a Secret Service agent. He gets the authorization from the President while Logan is in front of the mirror in his bedroom preening like a peacock. He quotes a verse from the bible as part of a personal pep talk, that makes us wonder just how far this religious “conversion” has gone.
Judging from his past history, we can safely assume that we can trust President Jellyfish about as far as we can throw him.
The dam breaks at CTU when Chloe gets a call from the woman who was listed as Morris’ sponsor on his personal phonebook. She claims she hasn’t talked to Morris in three years. Convinced now that Morris is lying, she hunts him down in the men’s bathroom and interrupts her ex-husband while he is in the process of attending to a very serious call of nature.
Claiming that he now has another sponsor and that Chloe has gone off the deep end, Morris convinces her that everything is, if not fine, then certainly not as bad as she believes things to be. Right after Chloe leaves the restroom, ashamed for doubting him, Morris pulls a liquor bottle (3/4 empty) from his pocket and, after deliberating briefly, pours the remainder down the sink while throwing the empty bottle in the wastebasket, Since it is probable that even the wastebaskets in the bathroom are inspected to make sure nothing important is thrown away, Morris’ drinking will probably be discovered anyway. But for now, he is safe.
Back in the boiler room, Carson is still constructing the bomb while Lennox is tended to by Reed. Tom pleads with his former aide to not become a terrorist by killing the President but to no avail. In the meantime, the President’s secretary calls Reed asking after Lennox who the President wants at Assad’s speech. Reed assures her that Tom is on his way while he hurries Carson along in his bombmaking. With the bomb assembled, Carson shows Reed how to activate it by punching a code into a palm pilot. Fifteen seconds later – kablam! The President must be in “the kill zone” of ten feet for the bomb to do its dirty work.
Making his way to the broadcast studio where the speech will first be rehearsed by Assad with the President in attendance, Reed sidles up to the podium and places the bomb inside. Just then the President walks in with Assad.
Back in the boiler room, a desperate Lennox sees a way to manipulate the steam pressure by turning a valve with his feet. Even though the alarm briefly goes off, Carson is able to bring the pressure back down and warns Tom that any further trouble will bring swift retribution. Tom can only suffer in silence as the moment approaches.
After brushing off the President with excuses about Tom’s whereabouts, Reed leaves the studio and stands outside the door. As Assad stands at the podium with the President standing only a few feet away, Reed punches the code into the PDA and waits.
The seconds go by with agonizing slowness. As the chemicals in the bomb mix toward criticality, some of the fluid leaks and dribbles down the podium. Curious, Assad stoops and looks inside. Deducing the threat he yells “Bomb!” and lunges toward the President as do 3 other Secret Service agents.
The explosion rocks the little room sending debris flying around like shrapnel everywhere. It is apparent that at least 3 Secret Service agents and possibly even Assad are dead. Secret Service agents rush past Reed who is still standing outside the room as if nothing happened, not even seeming excited about what just occurred. Let’s hope the agents remember this behavior later as it certainly would be considered suspicious under any circumstances.
But the President moves slightly suggesting that he is badly hurt but still alive. The agents probably deflected just enough force from the blast to save him. But it is also apparent that he is in no shape to continue in office – at least for a while. That means that the Vice President and his nefarious plans to destroy the Constitution as well as perhaps start a world war will move front and center.
It seemed obvious that at least three Secret Service Agents (or bystanders) were dead with Assad’s condition not confirmed. My guess is we will find out next week what the total body count was so until then, we will go with only the three obviously departed agents.