Former NSA Chief Was Worried About “Enemy Of The State” Reputation

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REUTERS

Actors Will Smith and Gene Hackman in "Enemy of the State."

In the past week, details on two of the most closely guarded and controversial federal surveillance programs have been brought into the light of day and has turned the public perception of the shadowy National Security Agency into a potentially menacing and out of control organization.

And it’s not for the first time.

The 1998 Will Smith and Gene Hackman film Enemy of the State portrayed a rogue agency attempting to kill Smith’s character, a lawyer who they believe possesses information that would embarrass the agency.

“The government’s been in bed with the entire telecommunications business since the ’40s,” Gene Hackman’s character, a retired NSA official, tells Smith. “They have infected everything. They can get into your bank statements, computer files, e- mail, listen to your phone calls.”

Former NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden was promoted to head the agency as the movie came out, and was deeply worried about the public perception it created, James Risen reported in his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration. Hayden, who went on to become the director of the CIA under President George W. Bush, “was appalled” by the NSA’s portrayal, and responded with a full-fledged PR campaign. The agency’s very existence was long a state secret.

“I made the judgment that we couldn’t survive with the popular impression of this agency being formed by the last Will Smith movie,” he told CNN in a segment pulling back the curtain on the agency.

“It has to be somewhat a secretive agency, and right in the middle of a political culture that just trusts two things most of all: power and secrecy,” he continued. “That’s a challenge for us, and that’s why, frankly, we’re trying to explain what it is we do for America, how it is we follow the law. Could there be abuses? Of course. Would there be? I am looking you and the American people in the eye and saying: there are not.”

With it’s current test far more real than a Hollywood blockbuster, it remains to be seen how the agency, and it’s director, Gen. Keith Alexander, will respond.

(h/t to former Romney senior adviser Stuart Stevens, who wrote the screenplay for a forthcoming HBO movie on the NSA and Bush’s domestic spying program.)

16 comments
TRogersJr.
TRogersJr.

A   scary coincidence in this   1998 movie is that the   villian played by Jon Voight was born on  9-11.

clayusmcret
clayusmcret

Nobody's listening to our telephone calls. And Nobody's running guns to the cartels. And Nobody's leaking donor information from the IRS to political opponents. And Nobody's using the full weight of the IRS to harass 501-4C's of conservative organizations. And Nobody's collecting all of the emails, electronic photos, texts or browser history of virtually every American. And Nobody's collecting all of our electronic purchases and credit card data. And Nobody's leaking personal information of farmers to the environmental movement from the EPA. And Nobody's doing any number of other illegal and/or unconstitutional activity. I sure wish they'd catch Nobody because this SOB is trampling all over our Constitution. 

Every one of the aforementioned illegal actions by Nobody in this administration, every one, have legal safeguards in place to keep them from happening.  Yet they all did.  How can that be in the most transparent administration ever?!

Krantzstone
Krantzstone

@clayusmcret To be fair, all that has been going on a lot longer than this current Administration, and it's not just conservative organizations that were targeted: anti-war protesters were as well.

terryclifton1
terryclifton1

I'm sure there will be another summit at the White House soon for a new set of marching orders for Obama's friends in the media. I predict within a few days time, most everyone in the media will be defending Obama's complete evisceration of our privacy rights, and welcoming with open arms, the police state that has it's grips around our necks. 

Security=Tyranny