You’ll be absolutely stunned at how the first program ends. The SAS isn’t going to come in through the windows, but your jaw will be on the ground.
On Monday, July 20, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time, NBC News will debut the first of two episodes of The Wanted, a program that tracks down real-life, high-profile individuals who have been accused of terrorism and genocide, but who are living openly in Western countries. The second installment follows at the same time on July 27. The cameras follow investigators as they research evidence, interview government officials, slice through red tape and lift curtains of secrecy in pursuit of justice.
The investigative team includes Emmy award-winning investigative journalist Adam Ciralsky (Dateline NBC, 60 Minutes), who also serves as co-producer with documentary filmmaker Charlie Ebersol (Never Stop Learning). Joining Ciralsky are former Navy SEAL Scott Tyler, an expert in urban reconnaissance and unconventional warfare; David Crane, a decorated former U.S. intelligence officer and the first American to serve as chief prosecutor of an international war crimes tribunal since Justice Robert Jackson did at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals; and Roger D. Carstens, a retired Army Special Forces lieutenant colonel.
Carstens, who has also served as the Washington, D.C., director for the Council for Emerging National Security Affairs (CENSA) and a senior fellow with the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), recently talked in an exclusive HistoryNet.com interview with HistoryNet‘s senior online editor Gerald D. Swick and Rob Wilkins of the World History Group about why he became involved with The Wanted.
HistoryNet.com: How did you get involved with the show, Roger?
Roger D. Carstens: I was working at the Center for New American Security writing reports on Special Operations and military contracting. An colleague from the Brookings Institute called to see if I would be interested in doing a TV show. My initial response was, “Thanks, but no, I’m not interested.”
Then he said, “Are you sure? The show deals with tracking down and bringing to justice those who committed genocide in Rwanda?” and I went from, “No, thanks” to “Who do I call, how do I get involved?”
In April of 1994, I was in Stuttgart, Germany as part of the 1/10 Special Forces Group (Airborne) . On the 7th of April, we were alerted at 4:00, went to a mission briefing and at 10:00 that morning, we were at the airport waiting to board a plane to Rwanda. And we waited.
After four days waiting, we were the told the mission was scratched. I was tired, so I went home, turned on the TV at 10 a.m. on Saturday and saw news footage of the bodies floating down the river in Rwanda, the men, women and children. I broke down and wept like a baby.
Becoming part of this show (The Wanted) was a chance to finish something I’d left undone.
HN: It allowed you to have some closure.
RDC: Absolutely. How many people get a chance to right a wrong? You usually go to your grave regretting it.
HN: What effect are you hoping The Wanted will have on viewers?
RDC: I’m coming at this not from an entertainment perspective, but from a sense of justice. I want viewers to see there are people out there who want to see justice done. This is not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democratic issue, it’s not an American issue. It’s about human rights, about protecting people and seeing justice done.
I want people who watch this show to walk away saying, “This is a good show. It says something. They’re showing what needs to be done.”
HN: How would you summarize The Wanted?
RDC: If you’re a 19-year-old guy who likes action, you’ll enjoy it. If you’re a person who likes detailed reports you’ll like it.
To me, this show is about pursuing justice, sometimes in the face of disinterest within the governments around the world. It’s amazing how disinterested some of the officials are.
[continued on next page]HN: Is the program primarily a behind-the-scenes look at intelligence gathering—a counterterrorism CSI, as it were—or is it more comparable to the show COPS, with terrorists instead of petty criminals? Or is it something else altogether?
RDC: Altogether different. You’ll get little bits of everything, but this is a news show, it’s coming from NBC News. It’s not a “reality show” and it’s not fiction.
In its appearance, it looks almost like The Bourne Identity with its multiple camera angles, cameras following three guys around. You’ll witness meetings with state, local, and national officials around the world. There’s nothing else out there like this. It’s groundbreaking television.
HN: Once an episode of the show has said, “There’s this terrorist living openly in a certain country,” what’s the hook that will keep viewers tuned in for the rest of the hour?
RDC: The show follows a good format. Viewers are given a problem in the first few minutes. They’re going to say, “Oh, my gosh, this guy is doing this and getting away with it?” Then they join us on the journey to find him.
There’s no showboating, no vigilantism on the show; we work within the law to affect a good outcome. But you’ll see surveillance in which the operators are at risk. And some of the things that come out of the senior officials’ mouths will astound people. I don’t think viewers are even going to want to get up to get a beer.
The show is also presented in a very exciting style of very aggressive filming, like nothing else on TV. It’s unique and compelling.
HN: But there won’t be on-screen confrontations with known or alleged terrorists?
RDC: Oh, yes, there will be on-screen confrontations with bad guys. I don’t want to give away anything, but you’ll be absolutely stunned at how the first program ends. The SAS isn’t going to come in through the windows, but your jaw will be on the ground.
HN: Are you concerned about your safety?
RDC: That’s certainly a part of it. We’re choosing bad people, people who should be put away. To me this is something that needs to be done, it’s a higher cause. Good reporters go and talk to bad people around the world and come back and report on them. Journalists are taking the same risk, but you don’t generally see the Mexican drug cartels or others killing Reuters journalists.
With Army ops, after a mission your identity is cleansed so you can go back out there and perform more missions without being identified. With this show, we’re putting our identities out there. I may have to look over my shoulder for the rest of my life, but I understood that when I signed up for this show. I’m okay with that.
[continued on next page]HN: Do you have a security team with you?
RDC: No, but we could have definitely used one in one country that I won’t name. It’s basically a Green Beret, a Navy SEAL and a trained journalist—and he may be the toughest of us all; he’s got several black belts—going into these countries. There’s very little showboating. It’s all very professional in how we approach the problem.
HN: When the show was first announced, some people in our government worried that it might interfere with ongoing investigations, and human rights advocates feared some people may be falsely accused. What’s your response to these concerns?
RDC: As to the first one, let me tell you candidly the government was doing nothing. A lot of officials are going to have to eat their words. If there’s an investigation going on, it’s because we started this.
When we started doing this show, they were doing nothing about these people, but then when they found our what our show was doing, they figured they’d better start doing something. Then they came to us and said there was an ongoing investigation. We said, “No there isn’t.” And they finally had to admit they weren’t doing s—.
As for the human rights, a specific person and a specific organization took shots at us. We’re not saying on the show that anyone’s guilty; we’re very careful about that. We’re taking a look at people who are accused of committing a crime. We do tons of research, we accumulate evidence that shows this guy may be guilty, but we say “This guy stands accused.” We may say to them, “If you’re innocent of these charges, you need to stand trial and clear your name.” If I were accused of something I didn’t do, I’d want to go to trial to prove I didn’t do it.
I find it amazing that a human rights organization would be concerned that someone is trying to shine a light on people who are accused of genocide. I’d think most human rights organizations would be coming to us and saying, “We want to partner with you on this.”
HN: Tell us a little about the Center for New American Security. What are its goals and what does it do?
RDC: I don’t work there anymore, but I’m still a nonresident fellow for CNAS. It’s a nonpartisan think tank that is dedicated to fostering a pragmatic approach to national defense policy.
HN: Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you and to let our readers know about the program. Is there anything you’d like to add?
RDC: I’m excited to be a part of this program. It’s not something that I did and now it’s done and I want to walk away. I’m humbled I was asked to participate in this—at the age of 44, to be part of something where I actually get to confront terrorists and say they need to come to justice. That’s amazing.
HN: Will there be any episodes in the future?
RDC: There are additional episodes that have been shot and are currently in post-production, so if ratings are high, I think it is likely, but we’ll have to see.