AT A TIME WHEN THE CIA is still hiding the details of its extrajuridical drone strike assassination program from congressional watchdogs and the media, one would think it an awkward moment for Hollywood to confer Academy Awards on films that celebrate its secret agents.
But apparently not. While a robust debate has emerged about Zero Dark Thirty’s depiction of torture, the film largely celebrates the tireless spycraft of a CIA analyst who was complicit. Meanwhile, Argo is an unqualified nod towards the CIA’s collaboration with Hollywood in liberating hostages held in Iran in 1979.
Argo and Zero Dark Thirty are only the latest film productions the CIA has influenced in the 15 years since the Agency opened its official liaison office to Hollywood. Tricia Jenkins examines the history of this version of “Hollywood confidential” in The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television. Short and dry, her book raises serious ethical and legal questions about the relationship between the CIA and Hollywood, and the extent to which we consume propaganda from one through the other.