One in this documentary series. This edition, hosted by Bill Moyers, features news footage and interviews, guided by a voice-over narration. It focuses on terrorist attacks against the United States, as well as American counter-terrorism policy. Moyers begins by discussing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, introducing the questions that will be addressed: "Who and what were the forces that led to this attack? How did we Americans fail to understand the nature of the threat? And how should we, as a country, respond to terrorism?" Robert Oakley, the United States' director of counter-terrorism from 1984 to 1986, talks about the concern at that time regarding Libyan terrorist groups. The narrator describes the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980; the events leading to the emergence of Hezbollah in Lebanon; and the bombing of the American Embassy in West Beirut in April 1983. After that bombing, the White House's position on terrorism changed, viewers learn, and a secret team was sent to Beirut to investigate the situation there. Later that year, another bombing in Beirut killed 241 U.S. Marines. Islamic Amal Leader Hussein Musawi talks about the organization Hezbollah, explaining that its members consider themselves oppressed people rather than terrorists. Footage of a Hezbollah training center in the Bekka Valley, fifty miles from Beirut, is seen. The narrator explains that this is where Iranian Revolutionary Guards train Hezbollah members and their allies. The narrator notes that the Marines withdrew from Beirut five months after the bombing and points out that when suicide bombers struck the American Embassy in East Beirut in 1984 the United States took no retaliatory action. Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz recalls that the inertia felt in the government at that time was frustrating. He says, "We were too paralyzed, somehow, by self-doubt." Eventually the CIA began to take action, viewers learn; this included a car bombing targeting the Lebanese Sheikh Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah. Fadlallah, who was not hurt in the bombing, comments on the attack. The narrator indicates that the failure of this mission caused American intelligence to withdraw again. The program moves on to the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985. John Testrake, the pilot, comments on what happened, and television footage of the hijacking is seen. Next, other acts of terrorism are described, including the kidnapping of Beirut CIA station chief William Buckley along with thirty other westerners. The narrator describes the controversial deal struck by members of the Reagan administration with Iran, in which the U.S. National Security Council sold Iran arms in exchange for the release of American hostages in Beirut. Next, the program discusses the targeting of Libyan President Muammar al-Qaddafi by the American government. An air raid forced Qaddafi underground for several years, the narration explains, and fewer terrorist attacks followed. In 1988, however, Pan American Flight 103 exploded over Scotland, killing all 259 people on board, and Libyans were eventually suspected of this crime. The program closes with a discussion of current American efforts against terrorism. Includes a promo.

(This program contains graphic imagery.)


  • DATE: October 4, 2001 Thursday 9:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 0:56:47
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:70072
  • GENRE: Public affairs/Documentaries
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Iran-Contra Affair, 1985-1990
  • SERIES RUN: PBS - TV series, 1983-
  • COMMERCIALS: TV - Promos - Frontline


    • Steve Hewlett … Executive Producer
    • David Fanning … Executive Producer
    • Robin Parmelee … Coordinating Producer
    • Sharon Tiller … Senior Producer
    • Martin Smith … Producer
    • Wayne Palmer … Producer, Director
    • Michael Kirk … Producer, Writer
    • Neil Grant … Associate Producer
    • Jeff Goldberg … Researcher
    • Jim Muir … Researcher
    • Peter Taylor … Writer
    • Bill Moyers … Host
    • Jim Gilmore … Reporter
    • Peter Taylor … Reporter
    • William Buckley
    • Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah
    • Hussein Musawi
    • Robert Oakley
    • Muammar al- Qaddafi
    • Ronald Reagan
    • George Shultz
    • John Testrake