Documentary on CIA’s Hunt for Bin Laden Doesn’t Truly Pull Back the Curtain
CIA vs. Bin Laden: First In. Reelz. Sunday, September 5, 8 p.m.
As the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attack approaches, there are at least a dozen TV specials available to watch, of varying merits. Here’s one reason you might want to take a look at—CIA vs. Bin Laden: First In, the Reelz cable channel’s documentary offering. Mike Morell, a former senior CIA official, is recounting how the agency was zeroing in on a compound in Pakistan where it suspected that Osama bin Laden was hiding out.
The CIA was intrigued by a tall figure its spy flights spotted walking briskly around the compound grounds, a man who the spooks called The Pacer—because they couldn’t figure out who he really was; his face was always carefully shielded from view. Bin Laden was known to be 6-foot-5; Morell wondered if the vast U.S. counterterrorism empire that had mushroomed in the wake of 9/11 might be able to get a fix on The Pacer’s exact height. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency was duly invited to examine the CIA’s tapes of The Pacer, and proudly reported back to Morell that its photo analysts had established that the mysterious man was “somewhere between five and seven feet tall.”
That wasn’t much help with bin Laden, but it certainly offers an interesting new perspective on the Cuban Missile Crisis, when John F. Kennedy and his national security cowboys nearly took us to into a shootout with the Soviet Union after that same National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (then operating under the name National Photographic Interpretation Center) identified a bunch of shadowy objects in reconnaissance photos of Cuba as Russian missile launch pads. (By the way, if you, too, can guess a guy’s height within a two-foo
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