A special episode dealing with some of the questions and issues currently facing the world in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on the United States. "The West Wing" creator and executive producer Aaron Sorkin wrote the script.

Summary Edit

FBI Field Office - Burlington, VermontEdit

Two agents are conducting a search for a possible terrorist, and a match comes up for a person with the name of one of the aliases who works in the White House.

The West Wing - Northwest LobbyEdit

Josh tells Donna that he's going home but she tells him that he has to meet with students from Presidential Classroom, who are touring the White House.  Josh is introducing himself to the students when Donna interrupts him to point out that the red "Crash" phone is lit on the security guard's desk.  Josh cautions the students not to be afraid and not to panic as Secret Service agents rush in as the White House is put on lockdown.

The West Wing - the White House MessEdit

Donna brings the students down to the White House Mess to wait out the crash.  Josh goes in to talk to them after sending Donna to find out what's happened and how long it will be.  Josh presses the students to ask him a question about any topic.  Finally, one of the students speaks up and asks [sic] "why everyone is trying to kill them?" Josh goes on about this until the students respond with, "it's Arabs" and "it's Islamic" - Josh interrupts and tells them that is not the case.  He draws on a white board, "Islamic extremist is to Islamic as _________ is to Christianity."  After fielding several guesses - he writes the answer, "KKK."  The conversation continues around Islamic extremism.  Josh offers to go get some of his friends (the other White House Senior Staff) to continue the discussion.

Back in the Mess, Josh has returned with Toby.  Toby asks the student to think about the political analogy to the question posed by Josh.  One of the students asks, "what was the first act of terrorism?"  Toby and Sam tell the story an 11th Century  group, from which the name "assassin" is derived.

C.J. arrives in the Mess and joins the conversation.  Charlie also shows up and relates a story about how living in Southeast DC and making comparisons to gang members and terrorists.

The President and the First Lady arrive in the Mess.  One of the student asks the President if he considers himself a man of principle.  The President relates that we don't need more martyrs, we need heroes.  After the President leaves, another student asks "how it all began?"  The First Lady relates the biblical story of Isaac and Ishmael - Isaac, the father of the Jews, and Ishmael, the father of the Muslims. 

Donna comes back to the Mess to say the crash has been lifted.  Josh gives them a final few words and sends them off.

5:22pm - The Old Executive Office BuildingEdit

The Secret Service, under the direction of Ron Butterfield, burst in on Rakim Ali, guns drawn. 

The West Wing - Leo's OfficeEdit

Ron Butterfield comes to Leo to inform him of the terrorism situation that is unfolding and that one of the individuals identified by an arrested terrorist also went by an alias, Rakim Ali, a name used by three individuals, one of whom was the individual just detained by the Secret Service.

Secret Service Interrogation RoomEdit

Agents are questioning Rakim Ali when Leo comes into the room - he asks Ali, "You know who I am?"  Ali responds, "Of course I know who you are."

Leo continues the questioning of Ali, asking why a wiring expert is working for a White House Secretary.  The questions continue and Ali cautions Leo that, while he has been cooperative, he doesn't want to get angry.  Leo tells him that Ali may not understand the severity of what is actually going on.  Ali was arrested for protesting without a permit.  He was also questioned regarding bomb threats that were called into his high school.

Finally another Secret Service agent comes to tell Rob Butterfield they found the Rakin Ali they were looking for.  Ali is released - but not before chastisting Leo on the questioning.

The Old Executive Office BuildingEdit

Leo comes to find Rakim Ali to apologize.

Quotes Edit

Toby Ziegler: ...there's nothing wrong with a religion whose laws say a man's got to wear a beard or cover his head or wear a collar. It's when violation of these laws become a crime against the state and not your parents that we're talking about lack of choice.
Toby Ziegler: Maybe this would be a good time for a course on our maligned little brother 'civil liberties'.
C.J. Cregg: Liberties schmiberties!
Toby Ziegler: C.J. Cregg ladies and gentlemen.
C.J.: You know of a way to do this without tapping some phones?
Toby Ziegler: What about illegal searches? What about profiling? You know what Benjamin Franklin said?
C.J. Cregg: He said, "Hey look, I've invented the stove!"
Billy Fernandez: He said, "They, that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Student:  Do you consider yourself a man of principle?
President Bartlet:  I try to be.
Student:  Well, don't you consider, I mean, I know they're our enemy, don't you consider there's something noble about being a martyr?
President Bartlet:  A martyr would rather suffer death at the hands of an oppressor, than renounce his beliefs.  Killing yourself and innocent people to make a point is sick, twisted, brutal, dumbass murder.  Let me leave you with this thought before I go searching for the apples that were rightfully mine, we don't need martyrs right now.  We need heroes - a hero would die for his country, but he'd much rather live for it.
Rakim Ali:  You know what, Mr. McGarry?  You have the memory of a gypsy moth.  When you, the President, and the President's daughter, and a 100 other people, including me, by the way, were met with a hail of .44 caliber gunfire in Rosslyn?  Not only were the shooters white, they were doing it because one of us wasn't.
Josh Lyman: In the mean time, remember pluralism. You want to get these people? I mean, you really want to reach in and kill them where they live? Keep accepting more than one idea. Makes them absolutely crazy.
Leo McGarry:  That's the price you pay - for having the same physical features as criminals.  That's what I was going to say.
Rakim Ali:  No kidding.
Leo McGarry:  I'm sorry about that.  Also about the crack I made about teaching Muslim women how to drive.  I think if you talk to people who know me, they'd tell you that . . . that was unlike me . . .  you know?  We're obviously all under a greater than usual amount of . . . you know.  And like you pointed out, the shooting? and everything?  Yeah.  All right.  Well, that's all.
[Leo walks out to the hall and turns back to Ali]
Leo McGarry:  Hey, kid.  Way to be back at your desk.

Cast Edit


Guest StarringEdit



Notes Edit

  • This episode was written and filmed in less than two weeks as the show's reaction to the terrorist attacks on the USA of 11 September 2001. The episode was not written to be part of the show's continuity.
  • It is one of the few episodes that does not feature a "Previously on the West Wing" montage.
  • When originally aired, it contained an introduction from several of the cast members.  You can see it here.
  • Stockard Channing joins the main cast with this episode.


  • It would be geographically impossible for the suspected terrorist to cross the border from Ontario into Vermont as they do not border each other.


Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth"

References Edit

"The West Wing" Isaac and Ishmael (2001)

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