The 'Argo' effect: Film could stoke suspicions about Americans abroad (+video)
“That decision crossed a line,” says Chuck Evered, a director and writer whose film, “A Thousand Cuts,” was recently nominated for a Saturn Award, one that honors science fiction films.
If the industry wanted to send a message of independence from government influence, he says, “that would not be the choice you would make.... If we are all in each other’s back pockets, how effective as storytellers can we be?”
The CIA has used any number of covers over the years, says Peter Earnest, a 35-year CIA veteran and executive director of the International Spy Museum in Washington. He says he was involved in numerous intelligence operations and points out that “there are any number of countries where if you even speak a foreign language or ask questions you will become an object of suspicion, so Americans are not alone in this.”
The fallout from this suspicion spreads beyond Americans abroad. A Pakistani doctor who conducted a fake vaccination program on behalf of the US to help identify DNA in the final hunt for Osama bin Laden “is now in prison,” Mr. Earnest notes.
In the cold war era, CIA agents would also pose as foreign correspondents, says Mark Tatge, a journalism professor at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. “One reason reporters have been detained, tortured, and even killed is because of past misrepresentations on the part of the US government," he says in an e-mail. "An American in a foreign land is immediately suspect.”