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back to article Want to know what CIA spooks really think of spy movies and books?

CIA spooks are attempting to prove they deserve the word intelligence in their job titles by moonlighting as arts critics. Writing for the CIA's Studies in Intelligence house journal, spies have been scribbling reviews of books and films, sometimes taking on pseudonyms to mask their true identities. Studies in Intelligence …

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Anonymous Coward

Reminds me of...

Now this sounds interesting! It also reminds me of a feature that David Letterman had on his show (and might still have, for all I know), called "Limited Perspective" in which a movie would be reviewed by someone professionally involved in a field that figured in the movie. An example would be "Flashdance", evidently about a girl who is both a welder and exotic dancer, which was then reviewed by a person who was a professional welder.

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Re: Reminds me of...

I think the Flashdance critique was done in the Full Monty

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Re: Reminds me of...

One of the late-night talk shows on Radio-Canada used to get a classical music reviewer to review the heavy metal rock albums - all in good fun. Generally, the reviewer would draw parallels with opera.

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Hiding in plain sight.

"John McLaughlin, who happens to share a name with who happens to share a name with a former director of the CIA, and, additionally with an English jazz fusion guitar player, wrote..."

Could the guitarist and the directory have been the same person? Could he have been using the same name as an example of "hiding in plain sight"? Has anyone ever seen them in the same room together? Now here is n riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma!

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Anonymous Coward

Fair Game is a much better expose..

Key to intelligence is the knowledge that you can always be sacrificed, so you have to spend well over 50% of your time watching your back from treachery by your own people. Oh, and they get pardoned as well. That's why having trustworthy people in leadership positions is important: it increases effectiveness as people don't have to spend time covering their own backs (true in office life as well, good leaders run better teams).

The Valerie Plame affair was a rare public exposure of someone being served up as a sacrificial lamb, shown in the film "Fair Game".

If you ever want to get near intelligence work, that is the first movie you should watch. Not because it should put you off, but because you need to be aware of the risks. Mr & Mrs Smith is only good for tips on new approaches to house redecorating :).

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Stop

Re: Fair Game is a much better expose..

"so you have to spend well over 50% of your time watching your back from treachery by your own people."

Only putting 50% of your effort into the job isn't good enough. You have to put in 100% and take the shafting.

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Mostly Boredom

I love the way James Bond breaks into the villain's office at night and the first thing he pulls out of the filing cabinet is the Master Plan. Dgeez, it takes me half an hour to find anything in my *own* filing cabinet. Similarly, Bond can travel halfway across the world, stakes out some place, and the baddies arrive within a minute. Or if they don't, he has just the right amount of time to seduce the villain's mistress.

He even gets on a bus once [Quantum of Solace] and the bus arrives just as he walks up to the bus stop, despite the place looking like it only gets one bus per week.

Paradoxically, mentally filling in the "missing" bits in a Bond film, they can give a good impression of what spying must be like - mostly boredom.

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Re: Mostly Boredom

I seem to recall Bond on a bus in Live and Let Die... or at least I remember a double-decker bus being converted to a cabriolet with the aid of a low bridge.

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Facepalm

Re: Mostly Boredom

"I love the way James Bond breaks into the villain's office at night and the first thing he pulls out of the filing cabinet is the Master Plan."

That's what the Daily Telegraph would have you believe happened when they supposedly found documents in Iraq's bombed out spy headquarters proving that George Galloway was taking cash from Saddam.

I'm no fan of Mr Galloway but that was fucking laughable.

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Childcatcher

Bond

On the subject of Bond, this quote:

"I ask students what is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of intelligence. Invariably the answer is: 'James Bond.' This is a sad state of affairs. Not only is James Bond fictional, but he is not a fair representation of intelligence," the prof said.

Ehm, did the prof consider that those students may know that 007 does not represent actual spies, but do think of him regardless? Did that prof ask whether his students thought Bond resembles reality?

Ah never mind, everything for a nice juicy quote...

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Re: Mostly Boredom

"I love the way James Bond breaks into the villain's office at night and the first thing he pulls out of the filing cabinet is the Master Plan. Dgeez, it takes me half an hour to find anything in my *own* filing cabinet."

I agree with your post overall, but I can't help thinking that any evil genius would probably be a lot more organized than us.

I mean, if you walked into an office, what would scream "Evil" at you more than a tidy desk? It's just wrong.

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Holmes

@ Dave 126 - Re: Mostly Boredom

Wrote :- "I seem to recall Bond on a bus in Live and Let Die... or at least I remember a double-decker bus being converted to a cabriolet with the aid of a low bridge."

Yes, in that case Bond was driving it as a getaway vehicle. The roof landed in the road behind him and the baddies drove into it AFAIR.

I knew the guy who engineered that stunt - an engineer at London Transport's experimental workshop at Chiswick (at the time). They first sawed through all the upstairs window pillars except the corner ones, and they were half-sawn through.

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Facepalm

Well, duh!

""I ask students what is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of intelligence. Invariably the answer is: 'James Bond.' This is a sad state of affairs. Not only is James Bond fictional, [...]"

So go on then, show us all what intelligence work is really like.

Oh, right. Official Secrets. Fair enough.

Back to Bond, then...

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Re: Well, duh!

El Reg on Bond :

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/10/05/james_bond_007_career_path/

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Not Real

Do you mean that hunt for red October was fictional.

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Re: Not Real

Yep, it was.... as was the Team-B report on which it was based. Or maybe Team-B got the idea from Tom Clancy.... it gets hard to tell.

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Monty Python's view

On the general subject of getting experts to review fiction, it reminded me of the Monty Python sketch where a bunch of Yorkshire cricketeers review a French directors somewhat dodgy film of a cricket match! They ignore the nudity and somewhat strange symbolism but instead complain about the inaccurate stroke play and the umpiring decisions.

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WTF?

There is nothing new under the sun....

"...spies have been scribbling reviews of books..."

You mean just like Robert Redford's character's job for the, er, CIA in "Three Days of the Condor"........?

As I doubt the writer of that had an actual bloody crystal ball to consult, I'm forced to assume that they've been doing this for quite some time.

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@TeeCee: Re: There is nothing new under the sun....

'"...spies have been scribbling reviews of books...' You mean just like Robert Redford's character's job for the, er, CIA in "Three Days of the Condor'........?"

To the best of my remembrance, that was not really the same thing. If memory serves, the Redford character was employed to read the books and write synopses of the plots, on the off-chance that this or that plot could be too similar to a real-life (in the context of the movie) operation. I don't think (and highly doubt) that Redford's character actually knew any details at all about any on-going ops; as that would have entailed far to much access to be given to a very, very low-level employee.

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Anonymous Coward

The golden rule

As long as you never ever ����� ���� ��� �� ��� ���� ������ ���

You'll remain undetected.

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Re: The golden rule

Just to clarify, although you say "never ever", Friday nights are an exception, aren't they?

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Traditional perhaps

Quite a number of literary (Marlowe, Greene) and semi-literary (Muggeridge) types have been employed by the English/British intelligence services over the centuries. James Angleton, who was head of CIA counterintelligence for years, was a publisher of a literary magazine while in college; I don't know that he kept it up after going into the spy business.

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Anonymous Coward

To find out what MI6 is really like,...

download this free book (banned in the UK originally I believe)

http://wikispooks.com/wiki/File:The_Big_Breach.pdf

And the one word to describe the intelligence services from an HR perspective - "arseholes".

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Big Brother

The Perfect Spy?

If Brabford simply wanted a film/book to illustrate the shadowy ( duplicitous, amoral & seedy) nature of intelligence work, did he or has he considered Le Carrie's " The spy who came in from the cold". The film in its bleak black & white complemented by Richard Burtons complimentary performance of resigned dissolute operative haunts me still.

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Facepalm

"it simply doesn't portray the shadowy world of intelligence effectively"

And if it did, do you think they'd *say* so?

"Oh, yes, that's a perfectly accurate depiction of the way we do XYZ, so all our enemies will now know what we do and be able to develop ways to stop us..."!

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Joke

Re: "it simply doesn't portray the shadowy world of intelligence effectively"

You're right: most of them still seem to think they're fighting the cold war...

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WTF?

Err, hang on a minute ...

"What the public sees and reads is with rare exception, fantasy mixed with a few kernels of truth."

Have I got this right? They are going to extreme lengths to keep their work and their functioning secret. They are doing everything they can to stop the public finding out what they are doing and how they are doing it.

And now they are complaining that the portrayals of them are unrealistic?

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Coat

Re: Err, hang on a minute ...

Yes, Obviously Ian Fleming was paid to create Bond.

His brother though was probably a spy and reading his factual books the question that's in my mind is why was he there if he wasn't a spy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_from_Tartary

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One%27s_Company

" Peter and his brother Ian were commissioned by Colin Gubbins to help establish the Auxiliary Units. This was to be the "secret army" of civilian volunteers that would fight on, behind enemy lines, as part of the British anti-invasion preparations of World War II. [Peter ?] Fleming later served in Norway and Greece; his principal service, however, from 1942 to the end of the war, was as head of "D Division," in charge of military deception operations in Southeast Asia."

So Bond was a latter day "deception" exercise by Ian.

More about Peter

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Fleming_%28writer%29

I can't help thinking of Sherlock Homes and his less famous Brother.

Mine's the one with the "one time pads" on Rice Paper and Bubble gum.

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FAIL

Re: Err, hang on a minute ...

Yeah, hang on. All those Wikipedia references and you still missed how Ian Fleming was part of Churchill's "Ungentlemanly Warfare Group" ?

And you fail to reference this : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Fleming ?

Not to mention this : http://www.cracked.com/article/152_5-authors-more-badass-than-badass-character-they-created/ ?

Really, one might think that you have some sort of bias.

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Black Helicopters

Critic >

Wonder what they thought of Enemy of the State.

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Anonymous Coward

Films and Novels require the suspension of disbelief

That being said, as IT professionals, I'm sure most of us get wound up sometimes by jarring technical faux-pas in films, especially if those aspects involving hacking.

Swordfish with Hugh Jackman hacking with multiple consoles deserves a special mention for grating stupidity.

However, big kudos to films where actual technical stuff is used (even if this is exaggerated for entertainment value) - War Games use of war dialling and blue boxes, the Matrix Reloaded use of NMap... now that really gets the geeks juices flowing.

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Re: Films and Novels require the suspension of disbelief

"Swordfish with Hugh Jackman hacking with multiple consoles deserves a special mention for grating stupidity."

But the interview scene had a happy ending though...

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Re: Films and Novels require the suspension of disbelief

Swordfish with Hugh Jackman hacking with multiple consoles deserves a special mention for grating stupidity.

I use multiple consoles all the time. ;) Try multiple people

Realistic Hacking

Hollywood doesn't get more accurate than that! ;)

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Granted, on the hacking you're right, it's beggars belief.

But hell does the explosion scene at the beginning make up for it !

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Childcatcher

Don't forget...

... That they're (obviously) not publishing the classified stuff. For all we know, there's huge articles praising the accuracy of certain works of fiction.

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Happy

The name is Popov, Dusko Popov.

He was a Serbian, double agent who worked for the British Intelligence during WW2, fed misinformation to the Nazi's including false D day locations & times. Also gathered intelligence including actual details of Pearl Harbour attack which Hoover ignored ( despised Popov's colouful playboy character).

Ian Flemming's experience working with Popov lead in part, to the creation of James Bond.

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I'll confess when I think of popularized Intelligence, James Bond is the first thing I think of.

Followed immediately by the thought 'of course that's a movie, not real life, which is probably far more boring and yet fraught with far more deadly risks.'

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James Bond?

As an example? What about Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath?

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Trollface

Re: James Bond?

And for the yanks what about Jack Ryan but only as played by Harrison Ford and Willem Dafoe as Mr. Clark.

The President: How dare you come in here and lecture me!

Jack Ryan: How dare you, sir!

The President: How dare you come into this office and bark at me like some little junkyard dog? I am the President of the United States!

The President: [on who gets punished for 'Reciprocity'] You'll take the blame. Cutter and Ritter will take some too, but it won't amount to much. They'll get a slap on the wrist and $20,000 an hour on the lecture circuit. The rest, you'll dump on Greer. Yes, you'll take him down with you. You'll destroy his reputation. But it won't go any further than that. It's the ol' Potomac two-step, Jack.

Jack Ryan: I'm sorry, Mr. President, I don't dance.

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Coat

Bah [cough] Humbug

Not all security officers work in the field so some specialist knowledge is rare for most of those behind the veil.Even the cleaners those with mops not the ones with guns, are cleared to a high security level so you could be taking the opinion of someone taking a break from vacuuming the office carpet for what its worth.

Now just stand still whilst I check your coat for weapons Mr ????.......Bland

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WTF?

Huh?

"Except for intelligence professionals and le Carré aficionados, the film version is almost incomprehensible,"

I'm neither and thought the film was perfectly comprehensible. And damned good.

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Re: Huh?

I want to see the CIA review for the Alec Guinness mini series, and I believe I am not alone.

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Coat

Re: Huh? @ Rabster

I agree with you but remember that was an American you quoted, perhaps his comprehension of spoken English is impaired.

Copy of "Dju speak Strine?" in the pocket.

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This post has been deleted by its author

At least one Jane Austen fan in the CIA

Granted, Jane didn't write about espionage, but "Elizabeth Darcy" as a nom de plume gets a smile.

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british spy movies are made by the british, american movies are probably better if you know what they should have been without the hollywood blockbuster touch and the 90min limit

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bourne identity could no doubt be alot better if it didnt have to obey the hollywood rules for funding

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Anonymous Coward

Sandbaggers....

I'd love their take on Sandbaggers.

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