“I would regularly bump into a parade of Hollywood types, including Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. I often wondered why these actors were allowed to walk around a top-secret facility. Because he’s going to be playing a CIA guy in a movie? That’s the criteria now?”
Former CIA Analyst John Kiriakou
“It [Instagram] is a way to explain our mission to the public, to show what is real and what’s not. So many of our officers’ identities can’t be revealed, so the public comes to know us through these fictional spies even though they are not necessarily who we are. We have a fun Instagram Story up right now about different actors and actresses who have come to our headquarters.”
Sara Lichterman — Media spokesperson and entertainment industry liaison for the CIA (June 27 2019)
July 15 2019 — As we mark the 3 year anniversary of our blog, let us take a look at the stories we posted on July 15 2016, 2017 and 2018. And never forget. History must be lived forwards, but it can only be understood backwards.
July 15 2016 — The CIA has a long history of “spooking the news,” dating back to its earliest days when the legendary spymaster Allen Dulles and his top staff drank and dined regularly with the press elite of New York and Washington, and the agency boasted hundreds of U.S. and foreign journalists as paid and unpaid assets. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
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RELATED POST: Courier X: A puzzle with too many pieces.
UPDATE (July 15 2019) — Until June 27 2019, the CIA’s official Instagram account, which was launched in April 25 2019, was not following any other accounts.
On that day, it began following 11 other Instagram users — all of them Hollywood actors who have portrayed spies on the big screen.
Melissa McCarthy (Spy), Claire Danes (Homeland), Ryan Reynolds (Safe House), John Krasinski (Jack Ryan), Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Jennifer Gardner (Alias), Bryan Cranston (Argo), Ben Affleck (Sum of All Fears, Argo), Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies) and Pierce Brosnan (James Bond series) have all portrayed characters inspired by CIA agents or operatives.
The CIA’s Instagram account also followed the @007 account of fictional British intelligence officer James Bond.
END of UPDATE
In 1977, after this systematic media manipulation was publicly exposed by congressional investigations, the CIA created an Office of Public Affairs that was tasked with guiding press coverage of intelligence matters in a more transparent fashion.
“The agency insists that it no longer maintains a stable of friendly American journalists, and that its efforts to influence the press are much more above-board.
But, in truth, the intelligence empire’s efforts to manufacture the truth and mold public opinion are more vast and varied than ever before. One of its foremost assets? Hollywood.”
PS/ According to a report by the Defense Department’s inspector general, the then-CIA Director Leon Panetta seemed to have stardust in his eyes over the prospect of a Hollywood version of the search for bin Laden. The CIA chief hoped that Al Pacino would play him in the movie.
CIA Pitches Scripts to Hollywood
Are you an aspiring filmmaker who wants to produce a spy thriller? Well, you’re in luck because the CIA has a pile of script ideas lying around.
Ironic, you say, that an organization known for secrecy is doling out helpful hints to Hollywood? The CIA doesn’t think so. For them it’s all about image control. And they’re just the start of it. The Department of Defense and just about every branch of the military has an entertainment industry liaison similar to the CIA’s.
If you want to make a war film and need a fleet of F-22s, a crowd of Marines, or a Navy aircraft carrier, just call up the Department of Defense’s entertainment media office and they’ll tell you if the Army can spare that M1A1 Abrams tank you’ve always wanted for a day or two of filming.
“The scripts we get are only the writer’s idea of how the Department of Defense operates,” Vince Ogilvie, deputy director of the Defense Department’s entertainment liaison office, told Danger Room.
“We make sure the Department and facilities and people are portrayed in the most accurate and positive light possible.” [WIRE]
CIA & Media Relations [From the CIA website]
Our media relations staff’s objective is to be as responsive as possible to the media and therefore the American public while protecting classified information and intelligence sources and methods.
The Agency’s Entertainment Industry Liaison is a member of the media team and engages with actors, authors, directors, producers and screenwriters who are featuring the CIA in their creative ventures. The protection of national security equities is always paramount in any engagement with the entertainment industry.
Our goal is accurate balanced portrayal of the men and women of the CIA, their vital mission and the commitment to public service that defines them. [CIA Website]
Entertainment Industry Liaison
As an organization that plays a key role in America’s defense, the CIA is a frequent subject of books, motion pictures, documentaries, and other creative ventures. For years, artists from across the entertainment industry — actors, authors, directors, producers, screenwriters, and others — have been in touch with the CIA to gain a better understanding of our intelligence mission. Our goal is an accurate portrayal of the men and women of the CIA, and the skill, innovation, daring, and commitment to public service that defines them.
If you are part of the entertainment industry, and are working on a project that deals with the CIA, the Agency may be able to help you. We are in a position to give greater authenticity to scripts, stories, and other products in development. That can mean answering questions, debunking myths, or arranging visits to the CIA to meet the people who know intelligence — its past, present, and future. In some cases, we permit filming on our headquarters compound. (Please visit our Headquarters Virtual Tour.) We can also provide stock footage of locations within and around our main building.
Intelligence is challenging, exciting, and essential. To better convey that reality, the CIA is ready for a constructive dialogue with a broad range of creative talents. [CIA Website]
Looking for inspiration for a new film or book? Our Entertainment Industry Liaison offers recommendations here. Check back often for his new picks.
UPDATE — In early July 2017, Tom Secker and Matthew Alford reported on their astonishing findings from trawling through thousands of new US military and intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents reveal for the first time the vast scale of US government control in Hollywood, including the ability to manipulate scripts or even prevent films too critical of the Pentagon from being made — not to mention influencing some of the most popular film franchises in recent years.
This raises new questions not only about the way censorship works in the modern entertainment industry, but also about Hollywood’s little known role as a propaganda machine for the US national security apparatus.
US military intelligence agencies have influenced over 1,800 movies and TV shows.
The authors conclude:
In all, we are looking at a vast, militarised propaganda apparatus operating throughout the screen entertainment industry in the United States.
It is not quite an official censor, since decisions on scripts are made voluntarily by producers, but it represents a major and scarcely acknowledged pressure on the kind of narratives and images we see on the big and small screens.
In societies already eager to use our hard power overseas, the shaping of our popular culture to promote a pro-war mindset must be taken seriously.
HOLLYWOOD UNCUT — The history of the CIA and Hollywood
Documents expose how Hollywood promotes war on behalf of the Pentagon, CIA and NSA — Insurge Intelligence
Hollywood and the CIA. A peek behind the curtains
One Year Ago — Hollywood and the CIA: A peek behind the curtains
Three Years Ago — Hollywood and the CIA: A peek behind the curtains (July 15 2016)