New evidence for the surprisingly significant propaganda role of the CIA and the DOD in the screen entertainment industry
This article reassesses the relationships of the Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Defense with the American entertainment industry. Both governmental institutions present their relationships as modest in scale, benign in nature, passive, and concerned with historical and technical accuracy rather than politics. The limited extant commentary reflects this reassuring assessment. However, we build on a patchy reassessment begun at the turn of the 21st century, using a significant new set of documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. We identify three key facets of the state-entertainment relationship that are under-emphasized or absent from the existing commentary and historical record: 1. The withholding of available data from the public; 2. The scale of the work; and 3. The level of politicization. As such, the article emphasizes a need to pay closer attention to the deliberate propaganda role played by state agencies in promoting the US national security state through entertainment media in western societies.
Part 4 - The CIA’s Involvement in a Significant Number of Entertainment Products Was either Not Known or Not Discussed Publicly in Any Context Until 2014
Jenkins used credit listings and occasional comments by CIA officers in the press to identify productions the CIA has assisted. These included Alias, JAG and 24, and the handful of films mentioned on relevant IMDB pages. In the years since, more information has become available showing that the CIA have been involved in a considerably larger number of films and TV shows.
In 2014, Brandon updated his personal website to include the names of not just films and TV shows on which he worked but also of people he worked with in the entertainment industry.
While his IMDB page lists only three films from his time as the ELO he also helped to produce comedies like Meet the Parents and its sequel Meet the Fockers and historical retellings of past CIA operations like Charlie Wilson’s War and The Good Shepherd. This combination of promoting the CIA through action and comedy and revising history through cinematic drama is similar to the way the DOD liaises with the entertainment industry.
In total, while Brandon was running the CIA’s ELO, he worked on 12 major feature films, 11 TV shows or series, and had some kind of involvement in at least 10 other television productions as well as several books and unfinished film projects.
Among his creative ‘partners’ Brandon listed producer Jeff Apple and screenwriter Roger Towne, both of whom worked on The Recruit, detailed elsewhere in this article. Brandon also listed producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, who is responsible for the DOD-supported Transformers franchise as well as the Salt and Red franchises.
Salt credits a former CIA officer Melissa Boyle Mahle with providing consultancy on the project but director Phillip Noyce – who previously made Patriot Games with CIA assistance mentions on the DVD commentary that the whole creative team had a video conference with currently-serving CIA operations officers while they were writing the script. This can only have happened with official CIA approval. Red does not credit any consultants or technical advisors, but former CIA officer Robert Baer is featured on the DVD commentary talking about his role in helping to produce the film.
On top of Brandon’s work, if we include former CIA agents providing production assistance, then the number goes up to over 20 major TV series and at least 29 films since 1996. It is reasonable to ask, given the institutionalized secretiveness, whether the number is even higher.
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