I am a retired military officer who served in SW Asia in the 1990s and I found the episode quite interesting.
There is always a lot of discussion about how realistically “Hollywood” portrays the military and the intelligence worlds. It certainly makes it look “grander, bigger, and darker” than it really is. After all, we would not be interesting in participating in an hour of fantasy unless it had something a bit outrageous or a little bigger than life. The writers, directors, photographers, and cast only have to get enough “realism” to hook us and then reel us into their fantasy world. In this episode, there were some areas that some observers felt were farfetched.
The quote by the character Brad Hoffman (played by Robert Hoffman) “Isn’t Iraq a little out of your jurisdiction?” was perhaps the most pivotal on whether the episode was realistic. The real truth is maybe not.
As a general rule, the military tries to avoid assuming jurisdiction in what are considered to be purely criminal cases normally tried in civilian courts, and prefers to concentrate on crimes that are more purely military, such as unauthorized absence or failure to obey lawful orders. In this case, the crimes were possible murder at the beginning, and probable manslaughter toward the end. In foreign countries, the military has what are known as Status of Forces agreements with many countries with more “civilized” legal systems. Essentially, once we have validated the accusations have some validity, we will turn over military personnel to those countries for trial. We only resist in cases where the actual or perceived illegal activity arises out of the individuals performing official duties. Such examples include when national passions become enraged over what is an accidental act, such as Canadians killed by American friendly fire in Afghanistan, or aviators severing a gondola cable in Italy while on a training mission.
In this episode, even though the event occurred in Iraq, evidence turned up in Florida, involving what were apparently residents of Florida, despite the Iraqi venue. We don’t have a Status of Forces agreement with Iraq. Besides, the case involved a contractor, who would not be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) anyway. As a result, it would be quite conceivable that Florida law enforcement would assume jurisdiction.
If the recruiter had been receiving two to three notifications per week that his recruits had been killed in Iraq, then if one does the math, this recruiter is responsible for about a third of the deaths in Iraq, which is a little unrealistic. However, despite the Hollywood exaggeration, the plain truth is that there have been recruiters have suffered a lot of trauma over finding out that one or two of their recruits have died out of hundreds over a two year period. So, on this point, they are portraying a human reaction that really has happened.
As for the “tough guy” reputation that marines, special forces, and covert operatives get, the real truth is that they are flesh and blood human beings. Moreover, the “tough guys” include “tough girls”, as we now have women increasingly integrated into frontline fighting units, including fighter pilots. I once saw a Navy Seal (I think that they meet the "tough guy" threshold) step off the edge of a sidewalk, lose his balance, and break his foot. So the scene with the marine falling and hitting his head was déjà vu for me.
The most difficult image for me to swallow was the Terrorism Watch List. The parents of Matt Batra (played by Michael Trevino) were supposedly on it. You don’t get on that list just because you are born in Iran. There are many US citizens of Iranian birth serving in many important capacities within the US government. Moreover, they are obviously naturalized US Citizens. The few US citizens on it are generally people who have gone overseas and are now believed to be working for terrorist organizations.
Moreover, if Matt’s parents were Iranian, there is good chance that Matt either would speak or understand Farsi. He could pass as an Iranian. Instead of being rejected, he would be very much in demand by the military and intel community.
However, what I think the directors and writers were trying to do was paint an image of what could happen when otherwise enthusiastic young people get caught up in intensely unfortunate circumstances and start going down a slippery slope of bad decisions as a result. In Matt’s case, it was frustration over escaping from the negative image of a heritage that was pressing down on his career choices. In Brad’s case, he panicked in a fire fight, normal for young soldier, even more so for someone with no military training. I guess that I was more sympathetic toward the bad guys than everyone else. I am sure that they can be charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, larceny (in the case of Matt) , which are the things they did after going down the slippery slope, but I am not sure that manslaughter would hold up.