CIA in fiction

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Espionage and secret operations have long been a source of fiction, and the real and perceived U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a source of many books, films and video games. Some fiction may be historically based, or will refer to less action-oriented aspects, such as intelligence analysis or counterintelligence.

Adaptations of real events[edit]

The film Charlie Wilson's War, released in December 2007, gives a popular account of the efforts of U.S. Congressman Charles Wilson to secure funding for the CIA's Operation Cyclone, giving covert assistance to Afghan rebels during the Soviet–Afghan War. This film positively portrays the CIA, while finishing with a muted scolding of Congress for funding the war but not funding subsequent peacetime reconstruction. This lack of funding for reconstruction, or what are called Operations Other Than War (OOTWA) in military parlance and counter-insurgency doctrine, are mooted as an antecedent to the present War on Terrorism. According to Declan Walsh, writing in The Guardian, the support of the mujahideen by the U.S. and Pakistan backfired on the U.S. in the form of the 9/11 attacks, and is now backfiring on Pakistan.[1] The film has its critics.[2]

The Good Shepherd, directed by Robert De Niro and released in 2006, narrates the CIA's tumultuous early history as viewed through the prism of one man's life. While the lead character is a composite of several real people, the most important is the long-term chief of the CIA Counterintelligence Staff, James Jesus Angleton. Angleton is also the basis of William F. Buckley, Jr.'s novel Spytime: The Undoing of James Jesus Angleton[3] The same story is told in the 2007 TNT miniseries The Company.

Hypothetical but modeled on real organizations[edit]

The character Jack Ryan in Tom Clancy's books is a CIA analyst.[4] Ryan is never a case officer in the usual sense of the term, as opposed to characters such as John Clark and Domingo Chavez. Ryan starts as a contract consultant, becomes an analyst, and rises in responsibility. There are operations officers that play a major role in Clancy's novels, such as Idamur's mom, to say nothing of the creative and intelligent Mary Pat Foley.

Graham Greene's The Quiet American, which has been issued in two editions and made into a film, is based on an amoral CIA agent operating in Southeast Asia.[5]

Films and television[edit]

Video games[edit]

  • In Smuggler's Run 2, the CIA gets involved with the smuggling operations.
  • The CIA is a central player in the events of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. In the game, NSA agent Sam Fisher must determine the fates of two CIA agents who disappeared while spying on the government of Georgia. Fisher must then infiltrate the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Virginia in order to track down the source of a security link within the agency. Later games in the franchise feature operatives from a fictional NSA initiative known as SHADOWNET.
  • In the "No Russian" level of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Private First Class Joseph Allen, a U.S Army Ranger is attached to a CIA element in an attempt to gain antagonist Vladimir Makarov's trust. "Langley" can also be a randomly generated call sign for any of the Task Force 141 NPCs that accompanies the player throughout the campaign.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops is focused around a character named Alex Mason who is in the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group and Jason Hudson, a CIA officer, as they take part in covert activity during the Cold War. They were members of Operation 40, which conducted undercover operations in Cuba and participated in the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
  • In Battlefield: Bad Company 2, the CIA's Special Activities Division is the playable faction in the campaign and is a DLC faction in multiplayer.
  • Homefront a first-person shooter that challenges players to survive and impact a fictional future scenario in which America has been economically devastated and occupied by a foreign power. Game is thought to be a CIA government recruiting tool by the Iranian government. Although, the CIA did help develop the story line it has no connection to any government except Korea invading and occupying the US by means of force.
  • The CIA appears again in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. The CIA appears in both the 1980s section of the campaign as well as the future. The CIA also is a playable faction in the Zombie mode "Grief".
  • The IAA, referred to as simply "the Agency," mimics the CIA in Grand Theft Auto: V. There are several story line missions in which the protagonists infiltrate the agency for various purposes such as extracting a person illegally held captive by the IAA, or to steal a biochemical warfare weapon being produced by the IAA at a secret government facility.
  • Battlefield 3 is focused on Staff Sergeant Henry "Black" Blackburn and his marine squad. After being forced to shoot his commanding officer in an operation, he is put under investigation and is interrogated by CIA agents Gordon and Whistler. Battlefield 4 continues Blackburn's story and agent Whistler (known as "Agent W.") makes an appearance as one of the main protagonists; his real name revealed to be Laszlo W. Kovic.
  • The CIA features prominently in the 2009 video game Yakuza 3. The CIA is working with the Japanese government to build a military base with a fake missile defense system in Okinawa. The idea is to lure out a secret arms smuggling ring called Black Monday (named after the stock-market crash of 1987). The base plans are symbiotic with that of a new vacation resort, whose land would require the demolition of protagonist Kazuma Kiryu's orphanage.

Tabletop Roleplaying Games[edit]

Comedy and spoofs[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Walsh, Declan (April 16, 2008). "The Taliban blowback". The Guardian.
  2. ^ Roddy, Melissa (December 21, 2007), "Tom Hanks Tells Hollywood hopper in 'Charlie Wilson's War'", AlterNet
  3. ^ a b Buckley, William F. Jr. (2001), Spytime: The Undoing of James Jesus Angleton, Harvest Books, ISBN 0-15-601124-7
  4. ^ Clancy, Tom (1984), The Hunt for Red October, HarperCollins, ISBN 0-87021-285-0
  5. ^ Greene, Graham (2004), The Quiet American, Penguin Classics, ISBN 0-14-303902-4
  6. ^ Tynes, Detwiller, Glancy, John, Dannis, Adam Scott (1999). Delta Green: Countdown. Pagan Publishing. ISBN 9781887797122.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

Further reading[edit]