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Homeland Security Truths in Showtime's Homeland Series

Online DegreesAugust 15, 2015

Like many television dramas, Showtime's new hit show Homeland embellishes many of the true details of a realistic homeland security premise to design a gripping tale of suspense to entertain viewers. So, what aspects of the show might actually be realistic?


The Daily Beast's Samantha Zalaznick recently spoke with intelligence expert Rick "Ozzie" Nelson about what could really happen in the intelligence community using the show's characters like Brody, Carrie and the infamous Abu Nazir. Nelson admitted that the interrogation process was a somewhat accurate picture of how someone might be interrogated to gain valuable information from another individual. However, Nelson pointed out that the larger context of obtaining and using that information is still pretty Hollywood and cannot be fully appreciated by someone outside the intelligence community. Nelson said that the way in which confessions are obtained in reality matches tactics used in the show, but a U.S. citizen would not likely be subjected to the same violence, and a congressman would not likely be present. Also, in the series, Carrie said there were broad powers to interrogate, which alludes to powers given under the Patriot Act. This law gives U.S. law enforcement authorities a greater ability to do certain counter terrorism activities.

Making Deals

When it comes to homeland security, there are definitely deals to be made. In The Daily Beast piece, Nelson admitted that immunity is something used with some regularity in regard to dealing with complex national security problems. He said there is generally more to gain by flipping than prosecuting (using the scenario from Homeland). Choices are often dictated by circumstance in this line of work, and Nelson admitted that choice is often limited.

Mental Health Concerns

The mental health status of a person is a concern for intelligence workers, and for law enforcement in general; however, how it is dealt with varies. In the show, Carrie hides her bipolar disorder from her employer. Nelson said that the CIA might be able to work with someone with such a disorder, but they would need to examine how it might impact job duties or the risk for being exploited.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the intelligence community has grown, and other experts suggest that intelligence agencies now devote more time to homeland security-related issues. Analysts play an important role in interpreting data, which is depicted with the team of analysts sitting at their computers in the show Homeland. Additionally, safe houses are used domestically and abroad, just as they are used in the television show. Video surveillance and device infiltration is pretty commonplace for spies and intelligence professionals working in homeland security. Also, they can be used as diversionary tactics, as was the case in an episode in which Saul hid a fake video chip when he went through an airport. These kinds of scenarios are possible in this line of work.


The politics and bureaucracy surrounding homeland security objectives are represented fairly accurately in the show. Professionals in the homeland security industry are often able to navigate these political and bureaucratic channels as part of their job. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons [cf]skyword_tracking_tag[/cf]

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