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Title: National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood
Author: Matthew Alford & Tom Secker
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NATIONAL SECURITY CINEMA
The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in
Matthew Alford and Tom Secker
National Security Cinema
Copyright © 2017 by Matthew Alford and Tom Secker in association with Drum Roll Books. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, copied, or used in any form or manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the
case of brief quotations in reviews and critical articles.
This book contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are
making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues of critical significance. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair
use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
For information, contact email@example.com
Cover Image: Michael Bay
Cover Production: Tom Secker
Paperback ISBN 978-1548084981
Non-Fiction / Censorship / Propaganda / Cinema / Hollywood
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
THE PENTAGON: STRONG ARM IN HOLLYWOOD
THE CIA: IN FROM THE COLD, SHELTERED IN THE CINEMA
Black Hawk Down
Charlie Wilson’s War
The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Hulk, Iron Man I & II, Avengers
Rules of Engagement
Wag the Dog
Tom Clancy: Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, Sum of All Fears
Oliver Stone: Thirty Years on the Front Line
Paul Verhoeven: Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers
BREAK THIS MATRIX
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Dr. Matthew Alford is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Bath in England. His doctoral thesis
applied Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Propaganda Model to the contemporary Hollywood film
industry. His first book, Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy, was published
by Pluto Press in 2010 and has since been translated into Chinese. In 2014, Dr. Alford produced a
documentary film of his research, The Writer with No Hands, which premiered at Hot Docs in
Toronto and won the Tablet of Honor at the Ammar Popular Film Festival in Tehran.
Tom Secker is a private researcher who runs spyculture.com—the world’s premier online archive
about government involvement in the entertainment industry. He has used the Freedom of Information
Act to obtain unique government documents since 2010, which has been reported on by Russia Today,
Salon, Techdirt, The Mirror, The Express and other outlets. He has authored and co-authored articles
for Critical Sociology and the American Journal of Economics and Sociology and hosts the popular
Our closest, long-term research colleagues have been Tricia Jenkins, Robbie Graham, and Pearse
Redmond. This book is broadly reflective of their considerable research, counsel, and analysis over
the past decade and we thank them very much.
We are aware that the data used in this book warrants more years of study and that by
compiling this manuscript in just two years there will inevitably be some errors and omissions.
However, we feel an obligation to put this information out into the public domain swiftly, clearly, and
affordably. Consequently, alongside this book, we have begun an ongoing process of submitting
adapted sections of the manuscript for peer review and we are releasing all our source data freely on
spyculture.com. In the endnotes, unless otherwise stated, documentation is provided on this site.
Our latest articles are published by the American Journal of Economics and Sociology,
Critical Sociology, Westminster Papers in Communications and Culture, and the Quarterly Review
of Film and Video, which are accessible through university libraries.
We consider the contribution made by each author to this project as equal, with the names on
the cover arranged alphabetically.
British Broadcasting Corporation
Central Intelligence Agency
United States’ Department of Defense, aka the
Entertainment Liaison Office/Officer
Federal Bureau of Investigations
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Motion Picture Association of America
National Security Agency
National Security Council
Office of Strategic Services (forerunner to CIA)
Office of the Inspector General
Office of Public Affairs (public relations at CIA)
Production Code Administration
The content of film and television is directly, regularly, and secretly determined by the US
government, led by the CIA and Pentagon. More visible since the 1980s is what we identify as a
distinct genre: ‘national security cinema’—namely, those films that follow self-serving official
histories and exalt in the righteousness of US foreign policy.
And yet the reality of a slick and extensive military PR machine in the entertainment industry
only became apparent to us, as long-standing researchers in this field, quite recently. When we first
looked at the relationship between politics and motion pictures around the turn of the Twenty-First
century, we accepted the consensus opinion that a small office at the Pentagon had assisted the
production of around 200 films throughout the history of modern media.
How ignorant we were.
More appropriately, how misled we had been—by those who sought to plug the leak of
censored scripts or discussion about them, as we shall see.
It gradually became apparent to us that the relationship between the US government and
Hollywood is—or rather always was—more political than acknowledged. The files we have
received through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that between 1911 and 2017 eight-hundred
and fourteen films received DOD support.
If we include the 1,133 TV titles in our count, the number of screen entertainment products
supported by the DOD leaps to 1,947. If we are to include the individual episodes for each title on
long-running shows like 24, Homeland, and NCIS, as well as the influence of other major
organisation like the FBI, CIA and White House then it becomes clear that the national security state
has supported thousands of products.
National security entertainment promotes violent, self-regarding, American-centric solutions
to international problems based on twisted readings of history. However, even those products that
don’t meet such a lamentable yardstick are still to some degree designed to recruit personnel and, in
doing so, must adhere to the desired self-image of the national security state.
Furthermore, we found that the government has been the decisive factor in both the creation
and termination of projects, and has manipulated content in much more serious ways than has ever
We also ask a crucial question, though: if the entertainment industry is essentially trapped in a
kind of ideological straitjacket, as our books and articles have increasingly suggested, how can we
account for the release of what appear to be genuinely subversive products by directors like Paul
Verhoeven, Oliver Stone and Michael Moore? Our answer, we think, will confound critics who
consider, for example, that Hollywood is biased towards left-wing liberalism.
First, though, let’s get back to the scale of the national security state’s operation in
THE PENTAGON: THE STRONG ARM IN HOLLYWOOD
For over a century, filmmakers in America have received production assistance in the form of men,
advice, locations, and equipment from the US military to cut costs and create authentic-seeming films.
The Pentagon is, and has been since its creation, the most important governmental force shaping
One of the earliest examples of Hollywood-military cooperation was when the Home Guard
provided tanks for the infamous feature film Birth of a Nation (1915), in which black slaves revolt
against their masters, before the Ku Klux Klan ride in on horseback to save the day. This was severe
race hate propaganda, which came with government backing.
It was following the Second World War, with the founding of the Pentagon in 1947, that the US
military formalised its operations in Hollywood. In 1948, it set up Entertainment Liaison Offices
(ELOs) under the authority of Donald Baruch. Phil Strub took over in 1989.[i]
If the DOD deems that script changes need to be made for it to authorise support, then the
producers must adhere to these requests and sign a production assistance agreement (see Appendix
D). A technical adviser ensures that the agreed-upon script is the one that is actually used when
shooting. The DOD requires a post-production viewing to certify that there is nothing in the film that
contravenes the agreement and may make further suggestions at this stage.[ii] Where cooperation is
more limited, the written agreement may be unnecessary.
The official documentation trail of DOD script changes dries up around the year 2004. Vast
amounts of annotated scripts and DOD-Hollywood correspondence had been either taken by or
donated to a single historian—Lawrence Suid—from 1976 to 2005, possibly beyond.[iii] Suid
continues to keep his material in a private archive in a public library in Georgetown, Washington DC,
and his apparent unwillingness to share the material represents a substantial and unnecessary loss to
the research community.
In the early 2000s, the Los Angeles-based journalist David Robb temporarily gained access to
Suid’s collection and published the explosive 2004 book, Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon
Shapes and Censors the Movies. Since Robb’s archival raid we know of no researcher who has been
granted access to Suid’s collection, with the exception of Texas Christian University professor Tricia
Jenkins, who asked for access but was offered just a pitiful handful of material from the early Vietnam
War era. Under such conditions, Jenkins was unable to complete the article she was working on, and
instead collaborated on an early draft of a 2016 paper with Matthew Alford that established how
Suid has, despite his impressive marshalling of data, in some ways choked this field of study.[iv]
The DOD’s post-2004 papers on Hollywood cooperation—acquired primarily by the authors
via the FOIA—do not contain any annotated scripts and there is very little by way of correspondence
and script notes. Almost all the officially available material is anodyne diary-like entries which
simply log the ongoing activities of the ELOs. We have analysed what little relevant documentation is
available along with draft scripts, leaks, interviews and other sources to trace the Pentagon’s TwentyFirst century influence over movie content.[v]
What does the DOD want to avoid revealing to the public? Read on.
The Key to Production
On a large proportion of film and TV products, the DOD’s support is not decisive to content or tone.
Most products would be made without its involvement.
However, there are numerous high-profile examples like Top Gun (1986) and Battleship
(2012), which are so dependent on the Pentagon that it is inconceivable they would exist without its
assistance. The film Act of Valor (2012) even made much of its use of real life Marines as lead
While filmmakers usually have to submit drafts of their screenplays to the military along with
their requests for support, the DOD waived these rules for Michael Bay’s Transformers. In exchange
for very early influence over the scripts, the Transformers producers secured more military
assistance than any other franchise in movie history. We obtained production assistance agreements
for the second and third Transformers films that show that the screenplays were not even finished by
the time that these contracts were signed.
Reports from both the US Army and Marine Corps ELOs show their enthusiasm for assisting the
Transformers franchise. For Transformers II: Revenge of the Fallen they held a joint planning
meeting with the producers, ‘to discuss the military’s role in the sequel’ while the script was still in
development.[vi] Likewise, they provided script assistance throughout the development process for
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, recording how Bay was ‘very receptive to our notes and expressed
his desire for us to “help (him) make it better.”’[vii] A few weeks into pre-production, the Army
facilitated a meeting between Paramount Pictures Worldwide Marketing Partnerships and the US
Army Accessions Command advertising agency McCann Worldwide. The purpose was to ‘discuss
opportunities for the US Army to leverage the success of the Transformers franchise.’[viii] Noting how
the second film was the most commercially successful of 2009, the DOD saw the third instalment as
an ‘opportunity to showcase the bravery and values of our soldiers and the excellent technology of
today’s Army to a global audience, in an apolitical blockbuster.’[ix]
The first Transformers film received a record amount of aid from the military, featuring
twelve types of Air Force aircraft and troops from four different bases. Bay’s military wish list for
the second film ran to over 50 items (each item being access to a location or use of vehicles or
military extras) with an estimated cost of over $600,000. To borrow a phrase from the Pentagon, this
investment was ‘force multiplied’ by the inclusion of technology such as the $150m F-22 fighters,
which had never appeared on screen prior to the first Transformers movie. Who else but the Pentagon
high command could provide a billion-dollars-worth of unique vehicles and shooting locations, along
with trained and uniformed extras, all for only a few hundred-thousand dollars? As producer Ian
Bryce put it, ‘We would never have been able to make this movie without the willingness of the DOD
to embrace this project.’[x]
The Pentagon’s influence on Transformers extended into the production phase. During the
shooting of one scene in the first movie where American troops have been attacked by the
Decepticons, Jon Voight, playing the Secretary of Defense, approached Bay to tell him that the scene
needed an extra line. Voight felt that he needed to ‘express his concern for the troops’ safety’ so
Voight, Bay, Strub and others went into a huddle. Strub suggested, ‘Bring ‘em home’ and ‘murmurs of
agreement moved through the circle.’ The line appears in the finished movie, followed by a shot of