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Spy Culture - 2018-11-28 - Original post - cached version
The FBI got back to me recently with a response to my request on The Spook Who Sat by the Door, including a few pages from Sam Greenlee's FBI file, which they'd previously claimed they could not find. Amusingly, the version of this file released to my by the National Archives contains several...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-08 - Original post - cached version
The late Cold War classic Top Gun is one of the most well-liked military movies of all time. It's combination of romance, comedy and never-seen-before aerial action was made possible by extensive support from the DOD, particularly the US Navy. It is credited with significantly boosting military...
Spy Culture - 2018-10-28 - Original post - cached version
In September 1977 the renowned Hollywood gossip columnist Rona Barrett appeared on Good Morning America to talk about spy films. Sat alongside her was CIA director Stansfield Turner, who commented that Hollywood movies would make poor training films for CIA spies. Within days a memo was...
Spy Culture - 2018-10-10 - Original post - cached version
The CIA's Office of Public Affairs is - ironically - very tight-lipped about what they actually do, so I was pleased that they recently responded to a 3 year old FOIA request and provided me with a document summarising their activities from 2014 to 2016. This includes numerous meetings with...
Spy Culture - 2018-09-26 - Original post - cached version
Pitch Perfect 3 appears on the surface to be a family-friendly piece of lighthearted, forgettable entertainment. But beneath that surface lies a carefully-crafted piece of military PR, aimed at recruiting people the DOD usually finds it hard to attract. Documents recently released by the US Air...
Spy Culture - 2018-07-31 - Original post - cached version
In March 2016 I submitted a request to the US Navy for copies of entertainment liaison office reports, script notes and production assistance agreements. Over a hundred emails and three appeals later they have finally released some script notes to me, but the document is almost entirely redacted...
Spy Culture - 2018-02-07 - Original post - cached version
A recently released document from the JFK files has confirmed an old rumour: that the CIA helped arrange the affair between actress Susan Cabot and King Hussein of Jordan.  The memo records how the man directly involved was the CIA’s on-the-ground fixer in Hollywood, Robert Maheu. The Affair Cabot...
Spy Culture - 2017-10-04 - Original post - cached version
In April 1983 MGM sent a priority cable to CIA headquarters, inviting director Bill Casey to a special screening of their new feature War Games, starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. The private screening was hosted by the MPAA building in Washington D.C., and even more surprising than the...
Spy Culture - 2017-05-31 - Original post - cached version

The James Bond films, like the books on which they are based, have always pushed the boundaries of acceptable portraits of sex and violence. Documents from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) show how for Thunderball they reviewed the script, recommending many changes if the film...

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 - 2017-02-08 - 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 - 2017-01-31 - 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 - 2017-01-20 - 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 - 2016-11-23 - Original post - cached version

Sometimes the Freedom of Information Act is a strange beast and you receive something you didn't ask for, but are still happy to get. That happened to me recently when in response to a request about the Pentagon's Hollywood database I received an updated list of DOD Films - movies that were...

Spy Culture - 2016-11-04 - Original post - cached version

In November 1959 CIA Director Allen Dulles sent a copy of the new Ian Fleming novel Goldfinger to Jackie Kennedy. In October 1964 the CIA Deputy Director Marshall Carter was invited to a special screening of the new James Bond movie Goldfinger at the MPAA headquarters in Washington. The film...

Spy Culture - 2016-10-20 - Original post - cached version
The CIA has had an interest in James Bond almost since its inception as a series of novels in the 1950s. The books were probably the first spy fiction to refer to the CIA by name and to depict them through the character of Felix Leiter. This led to a friendship between Ian Fleming and CIA bigwig...
Spy Culture - 2016-08-21 - Original post - cached version
In February 1975 the director of conspiracy classic Three Days of the Condor Sidney Pollack invited Richard Helms, former head of the CIA, to visit the set while they were shooting in New York. Helms went along for a day and acted as a consultant to Robert Redford, as depicted in this infamous...
Spy Culture - 2016-07-16 - Original post - cached version
Recently released documents on former White House consultant and MPAA capo Jack Valenti strongly suggest that his appointment as president of the MPAA in some way involved the CIA. The new documents on Valenti come from the CIA and the State Department. Though they are tiny fragments in...
Spy Culture - 2016-06-30 - Original post - cached version
Washington is Hollywood for ugly people, said Paul Begala (probably). Washington is the entertainment capital of the world, said Jack Valenti. Washington's influence on Hollywood, the state's influence on popular culture, is the primary topic of this site. But what about Hollywood's influence on...
Spy Culture - 2016-03-30 - Original post - cached version
Jack Valenti's career as head of the MPAA spanned nearly 40 years and saw the end of the production code and the establishment of the movie ratings system, the failure of the Vietnam War, the arrival of home cinema followed by the internet, and culminated in the post-9/11 propaganda push. New...
Spy Culture - 2016-03-25 - Original post - cached version
Chase Brandon was the CIA's first entertainment liaison officer, working in the entertainment industry for over a decade from 1996 onwards. Brandon helped produce over a dozen major films and a similar number of TV shows and more than any other individual helped set up a permanent CIA network...
Spy Culture - 2016-03-01 - Original post - cached version
In the 1950s the CIA and CBS were very close and this relationship enabled the CIA to use CBS to influence the media landscape in the United States. This episode from 1956-57 shows the CIA stopped a TV show from being made, using CBS as a proxy to muscle a smaller studio out of the way and...
Spy Culture - 2016-01-09 - Original post - cached version
Comic-Con has been a useful (and fun) hunting ground for the Pentagon's entertainment liaison offices for years, but NASA have recently jumped on the bandwagon. The combination of nerds and sci-fi fanatics has proven too alluring to ignore and so one of the world's biggest scientific institutions...
Spy Culture - 2016-01-03 - Original post - cached version
Tom Clancy was one of the best selling spy authors of all time, known not only for his technical accuracy - gleaned through extensive government contacts - but also for an uncanny ability to predict the future. Part of his FBI file was released in 2014 but in recent weeks another section has been...
Spy Culture - 2015-12-28 - Original post - cached version
Kingsman is perhaps the most intriguing film of the year - on the face of it a cartoonish action comedy set in the world of gentlemen spies, but underneath it is an ultra-violent, racist, eugenicist film of dubious sexual virtue. No government agencies were listed in the credits for the film but...
Spy Culture - 2015-12-06 - Original post - cached version
The world's biggest films now regularly take over a billion dollars in revenue, and the world's biggest film franchises are multi-billion dollar businesses. What has never been reported before is that 6 of the top 10 (and 14 of the top 25) highest-grossing film franchises have been supported by...
Spy Culture - 2015-11-25 - Original post - cached version
The traditional model of the DOD's ELOs says that they simply wait for requests from the entertainment industry for production assistance and then review the script and decide whether or not to help. The process is reactive in nature - the DOD are supposed to wait for the entertainment industry to...
Spy Culture - 2015-11-18 - Original post - cached version
Completing what has been a record-breaking year for FOIA releases from the Entertainment Liaison Offices of the US Department of Defense, the US Marine Corps recently sent me 1669 pages of reports covering the last 7 years of their activities in the entertainment industry. The documents reveal a...

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