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nitely targetable imaging and intercepting satellite systems? With this extraordinary

capacity for information collection and management, how could the terrorists of September

11th have slipped by us? It is no wonder that the public questions the intelligence

community’s performance when played out against these expectations.

At the same time, however, the popular spy culture has also fed America’s paranoia

about its intelligence agencies. It is hard to remember a time when America publicly

looked at its intelligence organizations as part of the arsenal of democracy. Certainly, the

1970s Age of Inquiry, ushered in with the Ervin Committee hearing on domestic spying in

1971 and continuing through the Church and Pike inquiries, raised serious questions

about the conduct of intelligence organizations. The Iran-Contra investigation in the mid-

1980s brought further concern about whether activities done in the name of the state had

not now become threats to the state. Regardless of the seriousness of the allegations, popular

literature and films built on them and played to a growing paranoia. Three Days of the

Condor, 254 the first film to come out of the inquiries, warned us that there was a deadly

conspiracy within CIA’s Directorate of Operations and that senior DO officers would kill

to keep it secret. Steven Segal’s Above the Law 255 has CIA officers moving from the

Green Beret murder case in Vietnam to running death squads in El Salvador and bringing

their deadly war home against Catholic priests who protested against them. In Clear and

Present Danger, 256 Jack Ryan must contend with a corrupt Deputy Director of Operations

who conspires with the President of the United States to eliminate a Colombian drug trafficker

in direct violation of the President’s own Executive Order. The list goes on. With

Enemy of the State 257 no vestige of privacy is left in the face of the National Security

Agency’s awesome capabilities. CIA might commend its cooperation in the filming of

The Recruit but who could take comfort in an agency that had given the Al Pacino character

responsibility for the recruitment and training of its next generation of officers.

Perhaps there are elements of the Intelligence Community that have escaped the paranoiac

pen of the spy novelist or filmmaker. NIMA, for the present, seems immune but few others do.

Even the Joint Military Intelligence College has not escaped the dark side. Illustrative of this

problem, let me close with a brief citation from Under the Cover of Law, 258 a police procedural

novel set in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the late 1980. The police chief is conducting a

murder investigation of the estranged wife of a U.S. ambassador. His inquiries point to a covert

intelligence operation with ties to death squads in Central America and the police chief suspects

unscrupulous government agents are acting illegally under the cover of law. A priest has

also been murdered and after his death the police discover he had conducted interviews with

the U.S. Army School of Americas, DEA, NSA, all somehow connected with the Central

American death squads. A detective notes:

253 Touchstone Films, 1998.

254 Paramount Studios, 1975. The film is based on James Grady’s Six Days of the Condor but the film’s plotting

was impatient.

255 Warner Studios, 1988.

256 Paramount Studios, 1994.

257 Touchstone Films, 1998.

258 Michael McGarrity, Under the Cover of Law (New York: Dutton, Penguin Press, 2001).

122

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