What is Operation Treadstone?
It's right there in the title, so obviously Operation Treadstone is important to the plot of USA's Treadstone. If for some reason you don't have a synopsis of The Bourne Identity embedded in your brain, here's what you need to know: The CIA created a super-secret program that trained elite assassins who could be "activated" at a moment's notice to carry out the bureau's nefarious bidding. The program involved breaking down the personalities, erasing memories, and eliminating the moral codes of its human subjects, turning them into unblinking killing machines. If you've seen The Manchurian Candidate -- or Zoolander -- you get the picture.
Highly skilled and hard to control, Jason Bourne was the asset that got away. Through the Bourne series, the everyman assassin learned more about his training, discovering previously blocked memories and sinister details about the program along the way. Meanwhile, various CIA bureaucrats were always tracking Bourne, poring over security cam footage and computer screens, and covering their tracks on an institutional level. There was always a sense of sprawl to the Treadstone conspiracy, like it couldn't be contained by the script of a single movie.
Freed by the longer runtime of a series, Treadstone digs deeper into the program's history, opening with a flashback to East Berlin in 1973, where "awakened" agent John Randolph Bentley (Jeremy Irvine of War Horse) escapes Soviet capture. The plot then jumps to the present day, where a series of men and women, including an oil rigger in Alaska (Sense8's Brian J. Smith) and a piano tutor in North Korea (Han Hyo-joo), discover that they may in fact be "cicadas," the word used in the show to describe the on-the-verge-of-activation assets. (The first episode is titled "The Cicada Protocol.") Who exactly is pulling the strings and why? That's the central mystery Treadstone sets out to explore.