By Sadef Ali Kully
While serving on the House Armed Services Committee in 2006, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Oakland Gardens) was at a hearing listening to testimony from a senior general in the Pentagon. The general had come to apologize for something that had happened accidentally.
NSA surveillance had picked up a tip that led the Bush administration to believe that a terrorist group in Florida was planning an attack on a military base. So it began to spy heavily on this terrorist group using high-technology intelligence.
“It turns out that the group of terrorists weren’t terrorists,” Israel said. “It was a group of elderly Quakers and they weren’t planning to disrupt or cause any damage to the United States. They
were planning to grab some oak tag, some Magic Markers, and peacefully protest in front of this military base against the war in Iraq.”
On that day, Morris Feldstein, the main protagonist in Israel’s new book, “The Global War On Morris,” was born Israel told readers attending his book-signing event at the Bay Terrace Barnes and Noble Sunday.
“I was in these top secret meetings. We weren’t allowed to bring in our BlackBerrys, we weren’t allowed to bring in any electronic equipment because it could be used as a surveillance tool by our adversaries,” the congressman said. “I would sit and listen to our arguments about going into Iraq, and arguments on things like the Patriot Act and restrictions on our civil liberties that bordered on the inane.”
Israel’s book is a satirical take on the inner workings of the Bush administration during the war when U.S. intelligence focuses in on an oblivious, Jewish man from Long Island as a suspect in a terrorist group due to a error in intelligence software.
“I would write about not what they said, because I wasn’t permitted to, but what I tried to capture were the flavor, the tone and the texture of what I had heard, the interplay between Bush and (former Vice President Dick) Cheney,” said Israel. “It made its way into the narrative because in Washington the truth is stranger than fiction.”
In attendance were friends, colleagues including Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) and readers, who took pictures with him during the event.
Israel also revealed during that Castlerock Entertainment, a television and film production company, has agreed to buy the rights to the book for a possible future television series which will be written by Woody Allen’s co-writer, Douglas McGrath, who did the screenplay for the movie “Bullets over Broadway.”
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull