Monday, October 1, 2007

If only life imitated art at the CIA

A lot of conservatives have been quibbling with The Bourne Ultimatum because of its portrayal as the CIA as a corrupt and sinister organisation that puts its own interests before those of America. This doesn't bother Dean Barnett, however, because, as he points out: "Portraying the CIA as a malign force is a venerable tradition in American film." Barnett has an altogether different quibble:

What struck me as laughable about “The Bourne Ultimatum” was how frighteningly efficient the movie’s version of the CIA was. Jason Bourne’s CIA can decide that a reporter at London’s “The Guardian” is a threat, and literally within 30 seconds the Agency has his cell phone and land-line bugged and his every move physically monitored. Within two minutes, they have a team of dozens of agents on top of him, and one stealthy “asset” moving in for the kill shot.

Were it only so! In real life, the CIA is closer to the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Sad to say, this isn’t a true indication of the CIA’s abilities. As Lawrence Wright horrifyingly recounted in “The Looming Tower”, much of the American spy establishment entered the post-9/11 world without the ability to send email or even to access the internet from their ancient desktop computers.

He concludes:

I didn’t mind the politics of “The Bourne Ultimatum”. I just wish its fantastic vision of America’s intelligence capabilities were a little closer to reality.

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