The "inside Hollywood buzz" says that there's a new movie on the horizon starring Al Pacino and Colin Farrell called "The Farm." Yes, a name that is almost as cliché as The Company that runs it. Camp Peary (The Farm), ten thousand acres nestled in-between two water inlets in historical Williamsburg, Virginia, is where the CIA once conducted all of its "experimental training"…about thirty fuckin' years ago. Truth be told, after Camp Peary, the CIA moved all of its questionable training over to Harvey Point, North Carolina and eventually to Tonopah, Nevada. But don't expect to see a movie called "The Point" at a theater near you any time too soon…and that's exactly "the point" of this article.
The interesting thing about Hollywood's long pedigree of espionage movies is that they rarely - if ever - capture a true portrait of the The Agency or those who operate within it. Nor do they ever show how the skills taught by The Agency - perhaps at The Point - translate into real life spy games. In my case, for instance, I often applied those skills to corporate America...and was astonished by where those skills took me and what they led me to stumble upon.
It was 1993 and I had just resigned my commission as a Captain in the United States Air Force. Shortly before that, I had been laid off from my other government job - the CIA…or so I thought. The Cold War was over and Berlin's Communist "Wall" had come down. Saddam's ass had been whooped and there were few enemies left worth fretting about. I was a young, yet seasoned, ex-CIA agent whose career options were limited at best. I was miserable. To tide me over, I became a corporate investigator.
One day, I walked into my office and there sat an executive from a major U.S. toy company. As it seemed, this toy company had been the victim of "toy theft" last Christmas when their competition launched a toy almost identical to theirs. With almost all of a toy company's profits coming during the Christmas season, this toy company needed to plug some leaks.
In my mind, my assignment was about as demoralizing as it gets; I was to be sent undercover into this toy company to ferret out their big new toy for the year. The idea was that, if I could figure it out, someone with less benevolent intentions could as well. Once a soldier in the national security trenches serving God and country, I had been relegated to investigating unwanted advances on little girls' dolls.
When I arrived for my first day of work, I was struck by the facility's inscrutable security. Nary a bird flies over corporate property lest someone knows about it. This was shocking to me. I never had pegged a toy company as a potential target of corporate espionage. But in actuality, this building was one of the most secure in the country.
In doing a little off-hours breaking-'n-entering one night, I stumbled across some minor anomalies in a remote-control toy airplane that an eccentric designer was developing. To the untrained eye, the plane was nothing more than an expensive kid's toy. But drawing upon my military background, I knew that this airplane had all the design specs to make it perform in a manner very much unlike any toy ever fathomed. With an avionics, video imagery, and ground-contouring radar package that would make McDonald Douglas blush, I quickly realized that I had found a secret worth protecting. Suddenly, "toys" weren't looking so bad.
Soon I discovered that the toy's creator was developing this aircraft (which today is publicly known as an Unmanned Aircraft) for a major U.S. military contractor. This particular aircraft (the lawyers suggested I don't reveal the exact name) was a next-generation aircraft that was being designed to perform low-level reconnaissance missions at a fraction of the cost of any other system. (It's currently being used overtly for the first time in Afghanistan.) By virtue of being an unmanned vehicle, 90% of the cost is left on the ground where it cannot be destroyed, not to mention the lack of a human pilot who can be shot down.
Employing every tactic in the UCI (Undercover Corporate Investigator) handbook and a few that aren't, I discovered that this contractor was using this toy company's resources and mega-security to develop its sophisticated, Top Secret aircraft and to protect it from would-be spies a la the military's now-declassified "Skunk Works" project. As you may recall, the SR-71 spyplane was developed in a reasonably unsecured hangar in Burbank, California, where the odor was so powerful that it deterred people from coming too close, hence the name Skunk Works. Had the government amassed several layers of security around the project, the Russians undoubtedly would have been drawn to the site. Who would ever think to look in a toy company for a top-secret military aircraft?
When I deployed a camera hidden in a remote control bird, however, I was more than a bit surprised when my bird confronted an NSC bird bent on foiling my efforts. I didn't immediately know who was spying on whom, and a cat and mouse game ensued until the government revealed itself in the form of the NSC and demanded that I cease and desist any further investigation of the toy airplane designer.
However, not to be deterred, I finally decided to flesh out the entire elaborate scheme and I discovered that the conspiracy went all the way to the top of the company.
Like all conspiracies, the rule is to follow the money and who gains or loses from that money. And just like in the government, the investigation led me back to who had hired me in the first place. After the ubiquitous "you must never speak of this" speech, I was on my way to my next case.
It only now dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, I never truly shed my contractual ties to the Agency. After all, what are the odds that I would be randomly selected to conduct an investigation involving the National Security Council and the Air Force, my two prior professions? This is how the CIA operates; they aren't the bumbling idiots they prefer people to think they are.
Let me give you one more salient example that I believe illustrates how the Agency really works, an example that I shared a number of times on CNN, much to the chagrin of the Agency. Have you ever heard of Aldrich Ames or Robert Hanssen? The side of the coin the Agency would like for you to see is that these were simply run-of-the-mill, albeit sophisticated, double agents. But let's flip that coin on its side for a moment and assume that it was Ames and Hanssen who were the bumbling idiots, prone to bribery, buffoons that they truly are. Now let's assume that the CIA knew this all along. How big a stretch is it to assume that the CIA would continually feed disinformation to Hanssen about supposed Russian double agents, knowing full well that he'd sell those names to the Russians and the Russians would in-turn kill them? Let's further assume that those agents were never double agents at all, but rather very deft, loyal agents that were giving the CIA migraines. What a great way to kill Russian agents by proxy. When the CIA accomplished all it could with Hanssen, it ensnared him in an elaborate trap and then waited for the money to pour in from Congress to assist the Agency in tightening its security…the same Agency that had been steadily losing funding due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. That is another movie you won't see for thirty years, but the story is nonetheless true…or so I think.
Copyright SportsHollywood 2002