Conspiracy Cliches

Mark Steyn on indestructible conspiracy cliches:

…indestructible is the movies’ idea of the CIA. For years I’ve joked about those films in which some guy would be on the lam from the spooks, and he’d drive and drive and drive, switching vehicles, covering his tracks, but finally at some dusty one-stoplight town in the middle of a vast Kansas wheat field he has no choice but to pull over and risk using the only payphone in the county – and, as soon as he does, somewhere in Langley a light comes on and a computer starts to whirr, and next thing you know the phone booth goes ka-boom, much to the shock of the old guy nursing his cup o’ joe in the diner across the street. Yet no matter how much you scoff at the clichés Hollywood keeps peddling them. The recent Matt Damon movie The Bourne Ultimatum has a moment in which a reporter at The Guardian uses a certain word to his editor. The CIA, it turns out, are monitoring every cell phone in the world, just in case this one word comes up. It’s the name of the top-secret terrorist-rendition and torturing program they don’t want anyone to find out about. So, in an instant, they’ve got a tail on the Guardian man in London. He hails a cab, leans in to tell the driver where he wants to go, unaware that he’s telling the CIA also, because they’ve got a super-sensitive listening device. So they dispatch an asset to liquidate the Guardian problem once and for all. And not just some lone assassin. There’s a whole team swarming a London bus in rush hour. In the seconds before they close in for the kill, more agents appear, to disable the closed-circuit security cameras at the railway station as the assassin squeezes the trigger.

And this entire operation was put together in a foreign capital within minutes.

Where is that CIA when you need them? In reality, the Agency would be more likely to deal with the hapless hack by putting it about that Scooter Libby leaked something to him and tying him up in a Patrick Fitzgerald investigation for two years. As for the speed with which they swing into action, this is an agency whose head honcho testified three years after 9/11 that it would take another five years to rebuild the clandestine service. Imagine Wild Bill Donovan telling FDR that the OSS was an excellent idea and he’d be sure to have it up and running in time for the Korean War, or maybe the Cuban missile crisis.

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