CIA, The Good Shepherd & Ultraliberal Lies of the Profit-Driven Media

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CIA, The Good Shepherd & Ultraliberal Lies of the Profit-Driven Media

Post  Yakima Canutt on Tue May 24, 2011 7:37 am

Central Intelligence Agency responds to ultraliberal picture about early years of CIA, "The Good Shepherd" directed by Al Pacino, starring Ben Affleks

Intelligence in Recent Public Media

Given the publicity surrounding the opening of The Good Shepherd, Studies in Intelligence invited CIA's Chief Historian, David Robarge, CIA historians Gary McCollim and Nicholas Dujmovic, and CSI Lessons-Learned Staff member Thomas Coffey to a roundtable discussion of the movie on 8 January 2007.

David Robarge: It's unusual for the Center for the Study of Intelligence to pay attention to a film, but The Good Shepherd warrants the attention because the movie markets itself as the "untold story," "the hidden history of CIA." This is unlike other movies or television shows that use the Agency as a vehicle to present what is transparently total fiction. I'm thinking of Mission Impossible, the two Bourne movies based on Robert Ludlum's novels, Spy Game, The Recruit, Alias, The Agency, and so forth.

By using composite or archetypal characters modeled on real CIA officers, by placing them in scenarios based on actual historical events, and by careful attention to sets, costumes, and other details, The Good Shepherd has a degree of authenticity, a documentary feel, reminiscent of Oliver Stone's JFK. Intelligence officers should know about the many liberties the film takes with history, but those new to the profession or hoping to learn something about its history may not readily recognize the distortions.

The Historical Liberties
[they discuss at length the many historical inaccuracies, omitted here for brevity]

Truth in Storytelling?
TC: The film is also provides a distorted view of Agency life. By depicting service in the Agency as a life of lies, secrets, and the dirty business of operations and counterintelligence, it suggests that people who work in CIA turn into monsters like the Angleton character. In short, by working in CIA you live a life of deception, can't trust anyone, and lose your soul. But these are incompatible themes. For example, in reality, keeping secrets bolsters the sense that you have to trust others, it fosters comradeship. There's a sense of community in CIA culture and history that is belied by the film's dog-eat-dog atmosphere.

ND: A film can take a strictly documentary approach in trying to take a photograph of history as it happened. If that's the standard, then anyone with historical sense is going to dislike the liberties The Good Shepherd takes. If one approaches the film as a work of art, one must still ask if there is truth in the story-telling. Does it convey the sense of the time: the atmosphere, the motivations, the tone, and the challenges? I think we all agree that the film fails that test as well. It fails because it inserts themes we know from our studies of the period were not there: the overarching economic interest, the WASP mafia dominance, the cynicism, the dark perspective. In reality, the stakes were high during the Cold War; the Soviets were seen to be on the march and very dangerous. It was serious business, and there were many personal costs. And yet, most CIA people were enjoying their work at the same time, as any number of oral history interviews and memoirs will attest.

TC: The film also does not mention any long-term successes. There's nothing to show that work in CIA was worth anything in a strategic sense.

GMc: It does show technical analysis in a positive light, making sense of a fuzzy picture and reading an audio tape. But there's no mention of the U-2 spyplane, a huge CIA technical success. Or the satellite program. Or the Berlin Tunnel. Those were significant successes.

And speaking of omissions, where's the Korean war? It was the experience of US servicemen imprisoned by the North Koreans and Chinese that made us think the enemy could brainwash our people and get them to spill secrets. That concern led to CIA investigations of LSD and other drugs. That is a story in its own right, but this movie suggests LSD came up as a truth serum out of the blue. The picture painted here is that CIA officers were sloppy in administering drugs during an interrogation and allowing a defector to jump out the window while they just stand there.

And there's the ahistorical way in which the CIA elite are portrayed as bloodless and stoical. Many of CIA's leaders in the 1950s were quite temperamental and emotional. They screamed and yelled and pounded the table; they were even party animals, and all that is completely omitted.

ND: Frank Wisner was famous, well before his nervous breakdown and suicide, for his mercurial temperament. He was a romantic at heart, like many of them. On the film's tone, what DeNiro and Roth have done is to take a perceived aspect of Angleton's character—from later in his life, the paranoid, suspicious, trust-no-one mentality—and work it backwards throughout his whole life and expand it horizontally to everyone else in intelligence, in OSS, in British intelligence, and in CIA, with one exception. Everyone in this film is paranoid, cynical, and not very likeable, except—and this is hugely telling—the Russians! The Soviets, for heaven's sake. The most likeable and human person in the movie is the KGB spymaster "Ulysses."

DR: A clear knockoff of John LeCarre's "Karla," who in fact has no historical counterpart because the Soviets kept killing off their spymasters.



Yakima Canutt

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Re: CIA, The Good Shepherd & Ultraliberal Lies of the Profit-Driven Media

Post  pinhedz on Mon Jun 20, 2011 3:55 am

Really bad movee. Rolling Eyes

You can read about the real events and characters that's it's based on and it's clear how it's all been deliberately distorted.

It wouldn't matter if it was all being presented as fantasy (like James Bond, or "Salt"), but this mess is preachy and teachy--it pretends it's like what really happened--that's what makes it so, like ... tongue

All those assassinations and sexual entrapments--that's fine as long as people know it's just a movee, but to pretend that's what's really been going on is stoopid.

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