90 Miles From Tyranny : Judith Miller: ‘Richard Jewell’ raises troubling questions about how FBI and media operate

Friday, December 27, 2019

Judith Miller: ‘Richard Jewell’ raises troubling questions about how FBI and media operate









"Richard Jewell," Clint Eastwood’s drama about the security guard falsely accused of bombing the 1996 Olympics, opened Friday in over 2,500 cinemas to a dismal box office of $5 million — one of the worst debuts in the iconic actor and director’s career. With luck, word of mouth will overcome this poor debut. Despite one serious misstep, Eastwood’s film about the power of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, aided and amplified by the media, is a brilliant, emotional gut punch that raises important questions about the unfettered power of law enforcement, especially the FBI.

The Centennial Park bombing on July 27, 1996, killed two and wounded 111 people. Jewell, the private security guard on duty that night, initially spotted the military-style backpack filled with explosives and nails and sounded the alarm that helped save hundreds of lives. But three days after being hailed as a hero, he saw his life, and that of his mother, Barbara “Bobi” Jewell, upended by an FBI leak to an Atlanta Constitution-Journal reporter identifying him as the bureau’s prime suspect.

At the time, the AJC’s banner-headline story, triggering his reversal of fortune, was accurate — Jewell was indeed the bureau’s leading “person of interest.” And yet the FBI, the press would later learn, had no credible evidence linking Jewell to the plot. His alleged guilt was based largely on a profiling theory that the bomber, like Jewell, was a frustrated wannabe law-enforcement official seeking attention, a loser/loner who lived with his mother in a cramped apartment in Atlanta.

Though the FBI concluded within days that Jewell was not the bomber, 88 days passed before it exonerated him; the film explores what happened in between. The actual bomber, Eric Rudolph, was eventually caught and convicted in a plea deal in 2005. Two years later, Jewell died at 44.

Eastwood and his gifted veteran screenwriter Billy Ray rely heavily on Marie Brenner’s 16,000-word Vanity Fair profile of Jewell, “American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell.” They also draw on "The Suspect," a 2019 book coauthored by former U.S. Attorney Kent Alexander, who was involved in the investigation, and former Wall Street Journal editor Kevin Salwen, who helped cover the bombing.

Published in February 1997, Brenner’s article savaged Louis Freeh’s FBI for running roughshod over a suspect’s civil rights and privacy, and the print and broadcast media that rushed to judgment and generated a frenzy that nearly destroyed ...

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3 comments:

  1. I knew Louis Freeh, he was an utter ass and had a near terminal case of SGD (Short Guy Disease).

    ReplyDelete
  2. media and viewers forget the most basic truth about themselves, anything on the screen is fiction unless you were there for the event. otherwise, you are getting what is basically just a fictitious perspective of what someone imagines actually happened.

    ReplyDelete
  3. After Coney & company the FBI have become the KGB.

    ReplyDelete

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