The week of Newsweek writers picking their favorite photos continues! Here’s Andrew Romano on the infamous “Situation Room” shot.
The thing that always gets me about this image is the intimacy of it. The event itself is a geopolitical earthquake: the killing, finally, of Osama bin Laden. And yet the scale of Pete Souza’s photograph is so personal. Outside the frame, unseen, is the planet’s most wanted fugitive, with only seconds left to live; inside the frame, in full view, sits the planet’s most powerful man (and his most powerful associates) witnessing the raid in real time, when it could still go terribly wrong. (Check out Hillary Clinton’s eyes.) History can seem like a clash of titanic forces, far too vast to glimpse or grasp. But here it is, as it happens—to a handful of people clustered in a couple of tense, cramped rooms, half a world apart. Presidents, generals, even terrorists: they’re just like us.
The Other Situation Room
Our White House correspondent Dan Stone got to tour the other Sit Room with Hillary Clinton. State’s Operations Center, aka Ops, started as a crisis center during the Kennedy administration, when it was trying to figure out how to depose Castro. More recently it’s been the nerve center for monitoring the Arab uprisings, the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, and various WikiLeaks dumps.
Foggy Bottom is filled with lore about just how fast Ops can move. There’s the story about Clinton wanting to talk to an ambassador visiting Washington who left his cell phone in his hotel room. Nimble Ops analysts tracked him down by calling his hotel concierge, then sending photos to three different restaurant managers to scan their dining rooms—and got him on the phone, all in a matter of minutes. Then there’s one about former Secretary Madeleine Albright trying to reach a diplomat who was out of contact at a Redskins game. Operatives figured out how to flash a message on the Jumbotron for him to find a payphone.