Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe
USA 2015, 1h 24min.
9/11 was a turning point on every level for the American society. The attack opened up for an intensification of an already aggressive foreign policy, with an emphasis on «war against terror», as the Bush-clan termed it. Internally, laws such as the patriot act were introduced, making it legal to arrest people based on unsubstantiated suspicions. Around the world, institutions were created where torture and incarceration took place out of the reach of both US laws and international human rights. But the FBI also created a miscellaneous network of national informants, where the plan was to prevent terror before it happened – not unlike the pre crime-department of Steven Spielberg’s Minority report (2002), which remarkably enough just launched when this programme was put into action.
The informants were tasked with infiltrating local communities and build personal ties with individuals whom the FBI suspected of plotting terror, or in some way of being potential contributors to terrorism. This meant that the informants had to spend a significant time with the suspects and the community around them before potentially becoming privy to anything to support the FBI’s suspicions. In some cases, this also meant that they would have to deceive people they had established close friendship ties with.
In the years leading up to 9/11, the FBI had around 1,500 such informants. Following the terror attack, this number exploded and is now at least 15, 000. Half of the 500 incarcerated since 2001, for terror-related activities, were imprisoned as a result of this programme.
Just a normal man. In the recent film, (T)error, we meet one of these informants. Shaarif, 60, is no intelligence expert, not a well-educated specialist, but just a regular guy who has misspent his money and needs help to start afresh. Some 20 years earlier, Shaarif was himself arrested for criminal actions. The FBI offered him a deal: If he would become one of their informants, he would not be convicted and would earn a regular income. Simply put, he did not have much of a choice. Could it be that Shaarif is making a little extra effort in a bid to make his employers happy? Not out of the question. He knows perfectly well what kind of goods they are after – and a potential terrorist jailed means money in the pot and more quality time with his family for him. He explains that he wants to provide a dignified life for himself and his son. The problem is spending long periods away from his son when he is working in a case.
Shaarif is also Muslim, like those he is spying on: He converted whilst part of the Black Panthers in New York during the 1960-70s.