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Spy Culture

Spy Culture - 2017-04-23 - Original post - cached version
This week we take a look at TRADEBOM, the FBI's investigation into the World Trade Center bombing. We examine how the case broke after one of the bombers foolishly went back to the rental company to try to get a refund on the van they had blown up. Then we look at some of the problems the FBI...
Spy Culture - 2017-04-21 - Original post - cached version

Uncle and Aaron invited me back to drink Hoegaarden and discuss the movie Air Force One. This typically chaotic discussion focused on how the Air Force rewrote parts of the film in exchange for their support, why Hoegaarden reminds me of happy times, and how terrorists open locked doors on...

Spy Culture - 2017-04-20 - Original post - cached version
In our final analysis and review for Homeland season 6 Pearse and I dissect the last two episodes, looking at the shifting loyalties and role reversals around the attempted assassination of the president-elect. We look at how Homeland has latched onto a number of ideas that have become popular in...
Spy Culture - 2017-04-19 - Original post - cached version
In 1981 White House aide Joe Holmes contacted the CIA as part of his scheme to encourage the production of 'pro-hero' movies and TV series. A Hollywood studio wanted CIA assistance for a spy film but CIA Director Bill Casey refused the request. Internal Agency memos reveal that they were...
Spy Culture - 2017-04-16 - Original post - cached version
The WTC bombing in 1993 was a massive embarrassment for the Bureau. It emerged at the resulting trials that the Bureau had an informant deep within the Al Kifah group, but fired him months before the bombing took place. This week we take a closer look at Emad Salem, the former Egyptian...
Spy Culture - 2017-04-13 - Original post - cached version

Executive Action is perhaps the most famous conspiracy thriller about the John Kennedy assassination, with the exception of Oliver Stone's JFK. Recently released CIA records in the CREST database show that they were keeping an eye the production and how it was being received. The articles...

Spy Culture - 2017-04-11 - Original post - cached version

The 1973 ITV documentary The Red Under the Bed helped convict the Shrewsbury 24 by accusing them of being communists for their role in leading the 1972 Building Workers Strike. A file from the office of then-Prime Minister Ted Heath confirms that the documentary was not just encouraged by the...

Spy Culture - 2017-04-09 - Original post - cached version
The Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman was an Egyptian cleric who played a critical role in the early years of Al Qaeda. Rahman and his followers took over the New York branch of the MAK, an international fundraising and recruiting organisation that was central to the CIA's Operation Cyclone. His...
Spy Culture - 2017-04-05 - Original post - cached version

Goldeneye is possibly the best of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films, but like two others in the Brosnan period it relied on US military support. This entailed the Pentagon reviewing the script and demanding two changes - one political, one promotional - in exchange for helping to shoot one...

Spy Culture - 2017-04-03 - Original post - cached version

In this month's subscriber-only podcast Pearse and I discuss the 1986 TV movie Under Siege. Co-written by former Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward on the surface this is a liberal take on the Reagan White House, but underneath is a profoundly neoconservative film. When terrorists attack...

Spy Culture - 2017-03-30 - Original post - cached version
In our latest dissection of season 6 of Homeland, I joined Pearse on Porkins Policy Radio to discuss the latest few episodes. With the revelation that Dar Adal has been running a sock puppet click farm to manipulate US public opinion, Homeland has dragged this season right up to date. It is no...
Spy Culture - 2017-03-26 - Original post - cached version
Beginning a new series on the history of Al Qaeda, this week I provide the basis for what's coming in the next several episodes. What is or was Al Qaeda? Four distinct models have been proposed to try to answer this question so I outline each, drawing on the works of Rohan Gunaratna, Jason Burke...
Spy Culture - 2017-03-21 - Original post - cached version
From the Donald Trump school of naming things came The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World, a 1965 spoof of the James Bond movies. Like many 1960s spy thrillers The Second Best Secret Agent was on the radar of the CIA.

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Spy Culture - 2017-03-19 - Original post - cached version
In 1980 the BBC's documentary series Panorama began developing an episode on British intelligence. This was the first of its kind, at least by such a prominent and respected series, but both the central government and the intelligence agencies were not happy. Over a period of several months they...
Spy Culture - 2017-03-16 - Original post - cached version
In the summer of 1980 the BBC's flagship documentary series Panorama was developing a TV special about British intelligence. This was the first film of its kind, and perhaps unsurprisingly Thatcher's government was not happy about it. Downing Street put pressure on the film-makers via BBC...
Spy Culture - 2017-03-12 - Original post - cached version

Richard Whiteley is best known for presenting the popular afternoon quiz show Countdown, and Ricky Tomlinson is best known for starring in the popular sitcom The Royle Family. Back in the 1970s things were very different. This week we examine Tomlinson's recent allegation that Whiteley was a...

Spy Culture - 2017-03-08 - Original post - cached version
I recently acquired some decades-old Pentagon directives and instructions. These documents formed the basis for DOD policy in their engagement with the entertainment industry, establishing a range of conflicting criteria for the military's liaisons with film and TV producers. This provided them...
Spy Culture - 2017-03-07 - Original post - cached version

It is with some pride that I can announce that the American Journal of Economics and Sociology has today published an edition featuring not just one, not just one and a half but two articles that I wrote. The latest issue of AJES focuses on the role of the CIA and DOD in Hollywood and...

Spy Culture - 2017-03-05 - Original post - cached version
In this month’s subscriber podcast I talk about the Pentagon’s database on their collaboration with Hollywood – what it is, how I got it and what it contains. I highlight some of the more provocative and politically relevant entries and provide details on how the Pentagon rewrote elements of films...
Spy Culture - 2017-03-03 - Original post - cached version
This week I joined Pearse on his radio show to revisit the 1993 WTC bombing, in light of the recent anniversary and the death of former CIA asset the Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.

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Spy Culture - 2017-03-02 - Original post - cached version

While I have written about 1973 thriller Scorpio before, documents made available on the CIA CREST database shed new light on this, the first movie to film at Langley. The CIA were not just spying on media coverage of the film as it developed but also had assets within the MPAA keeping an eye...

Spy Culture - 2017-02-26 - Original post - cached version

Pearse and I were recently invited onto Black Op Radio with Len Osanic to talk about The CIA and Hollywood. We mostly discussed Ed Lansdale's involvement in The Quiet American (1958), which butchered the original book in part as a result of Lansdale's influence on writer/director Joseph...

Spy Culture - 2017-02-22 - Original post - cached version
In 1953, in the early weeks of the Eisenhower administration, the CIA conducted an operation to alter the content of Hollywood films to help promote positive images of America to foreign audiences. A series of letters addressed to a CIA officer named 'Owen' were written by an executive at...
Spy Culture - 2017-02-19 - Original post - cached version

Nightcrawler is one of those rare films that is beautifully written, very well executed and is about something that actually matters. It tells the story of Lou Bloom, a young man in poverty-struck Los Angeles who gets into nightcrawling - filming violent crimes and accidents and selling the...

Spy Culture - 2017-02-18 - Original post - cached version

Die Another Day is widely considered to be one of the worst James Bond films ever made. It's the one with the invisible car in the ice cave and Halle Berry. The production got limited supported from the US Marine Corps, who recently released a short folder to me from their entertainment...

Spy Culture - 2017-02-12 - Original post - cached version
Why do we censor films? Intuitively we all know the answer to this question - because there are some things we don't want to see on the screen. In this episode we examine film censorship, focusing primarily on the treatment of cinematic violence by the MPAA and BBFC. Using Walter Benjamin's...
Spy Culture - 2017-02-08 - Original post - cached version

Paranoid thriller Enemy of the State provoked such a reaction within the NSA that they instigated a large PR campaign to counter public perceptions of a surveillance agency running wild. NSA emails show that even while the movie was being made, agency employees were unhappy about the...

Spy Culture - 2017-02-07 - Original post - cached version
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In 1969 the CIA obtained a copy of The CIA, a screenplay being developed at Universal Studios, written by William Woodfield and Allan Balter. Woodfield and Balter were perhaps best known for writing the TV series of Mission: Impossible, until they had a well-publicised falling out...

Spy Culture - 2017-02-06 - Original post - cached version

The Twentieth Day in January was published in 1980 and tells the story of an MI6 officer discovering that the Russian government is blackmailing the incoming president. In this subscriber-only podcast we take a look at the book and dwell a little on its implications, and I offer my views on...

Spy Culture - 2017-02-05 - Original post - cached version

Julian of The Mind Renewed invited me back onto his show to discuss the link between false flag terrorism and training exercises. While this is usually talked about in a very simplistic and historically ignorant way, the method of using a drill or training exercise to cover for a black...

Spy Culture - 2017-01-31 - Original post - cached version

On the face of it former CIA officer, Watergate burglar and confessed JFK assassin E Howard Hunt shouldn't have had much to do with former MPAA president Jack Valenti. They both served in WW2 (Hunt in the OSS, Valenti in the Army Air Forces) and both died in 2007. They may both have been...

Spy Culture - 2017-01-29 - Original post - cached version
Jack Valenti was a special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, a consultant to the State Department and the third head of the MPAA. In this episode we look at his life, focusing in two key areas - the introduction of the film classification ratings system and Valenti's connections with the CIA...
Spy Culture - 2017-01-25 - Original post - cached version

Covert Affairs was a not particularly original spy series telling the tale of an attractive young woman who is thrust into the world of CIA black operations. It lasted for five seasons, mostly because it starred Piper Perabo and people like Piper Perabo. Perabo's character Annie Walker is...

Spy Culture - 2017-01-24 - Original post - cached version

I triumphantly returned to my favourite comedy show Uncle the Podcast to review the film Central Intelligence. The movie stars The Rock and Kevin Hart in a zany buddy comedy about a mild-mannered accountant who is drawn into the world of CIA black operations. To my knowledge Central...

Spy Culture - 2017-01-23 - Original post - cached version
Eric Johnston was the second head of the MPAA, a high level political operative and a friend of CIA director Allen Dulles. In this episode we take a look at his life and work, from his role instituting the Hollywood blacklist to his relationships with the FBI and CIA. From his meeting with high...
Spy Culture - 2017-01-20 - Original post - cached version

Newly-available emails show that when Claire Danes first visited CIA headquarters, she did so in very low-key fashion after a friendly CIA agent got her in. This confirms that the Agency have been involved in the production of Homeland since the first season, and shows how even their liaisons...

Spy Culture - 2017-01-19 - Original post - cached version

This week I joined Pearse to talk about the beginning of the new season of Homeland, and how it isn't quite what we expected. The entire 6th season is set between the US presidential election and inauguration day and while the president-elect is female, she is no Hitlery Clinton. Instead she...

Spy Culture - 2017-01-15 - Original post - cached version

Sterling Hayden's life encompassed many important events and periods of the 20th century. A lifelong seaman he joined the Marine Corps and the OSS during World War 2, running smuggling operations to support anti-fascist partisans in Yugoslavia. He was also a movie star, famously appearing in...

Spy Culture - 2017-01-11 - Original post - cached version

Sterling Hayden is perhaps best-known for playing Jack D Ripper but his life and career make for fascinating reading. After a time working as a mate on various ships his near 2-metre frame, grizelled good looks and shock of blonde hair saw him move into print modelling and then into Hollywood...

Spy Culture - 2017-01-09 - Original post - cached version

Spies is the 'new' game show from Channel 4. I say 'new' because it's a blow-for-blow remake of the 2004 BBC series Spy, which also took a small group of members of the public and had three former spooks put them through their paces via a series of tests and training exercises. The first...

Spy Culture - 2017-01-08 - Original post - cached version

Unreal is a gripping and brutal satire of reality TV but it is much more than that. While this might sound like a drama about a trivial subject, the content of Unreal makes it one of the most serious and important TV series of recent years. It follows two female producers as they make a...

Spy Culture - 2017-01-05 - Original post - cached version
Recently made available by Cryptome this NSA report originally appeared in an issue of their publication Cryptolog in 1992. It examines the role that signals intelligence (SIGINT) plays in the storylines of several John le Carré novels and considers whether the inaccuracies and limitations in...
Spy Culture - 2017-01-03 - Original post - cached version
The FBI's file on James Marshall Hendrix aka Jimi Hendrix is a brief but entertaining example of the Bureau having too much time on their hands and not enough to do. After Hendrix was arrested in Toronto in 1969 'after a quantity of marijuana was found in his shaving kit' the Canadian authorities...
Spy Culture - 2017-01-01 - Original post - cached version

In this month's podcast for patreon subscribers I review Rogue One: A Star Wars Cash-In. The film is a spy movie/war movie about the rebellion stealing the plans for the Death Star and has a much darker tone and grittier visuals than most Star Wars films. The problems arise mostly in the...

Spy Culture - 2016-12-24 - Original post - cached version

Pearse invited me on his radio show to discuss the 1964 TV movie A Carol for Another Christmas. This was the first in a series of TV films designed to promote the United Nations and sponsored by the Xerox corporation. A Carol for Another Christmas is a remake of A Christmas Carol, only this...

Spy Culture - 2016-12-22 - Original post - cached version
The CIA finally jumped on the cooking-themed reality TV propaganda bandwagon in 2010 when they hosted an episode of Top Chef. This week we take a look at the episode in question, how it flattered the CIA, and how Top Chef has involved numerous government agencies and departments. We round off...
Spy Culture - 2016-12-18 - Original post - cached version
I recently talked to Ricky Varandas for his podcast The Ripple Effect. We were supposed to be discussing government involvement in entertainment but got distracted and ended up talking about: whether popularity matters; Trump and Brexit and why people voted for them; the differences and...
Spy Culture - 2016-12-15 - Original post - cached version

United 93 was the first and - to date - the only major movie to depict what happened in the skies over the US on the morning of the 9/11 attacks. The film-makers intended it to be as accurate and realistic as possible, so they reached out to the Pentagon and the US Air Force in particular...

Spy Culture - 2016-12-11 - Original post - cached version
The Department of Defense is the government agency with the largest and most influential operations in Hollywood. But to how many films have they provided production assistance? How many movies have they supported? In this episode we explore the answer to this question, why it is so difficult to...
Spy Culture - 2016-12-06 - Original post - cached version

In this subscriber-only podcast I talk about the new book I am working on, the fake news hype of recent weeks and review nuclear war sitcom The Brink. This podcast is only available to supporters of my patreon campaign. Click the link below to go to my patreon page and sign up so you can get...

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