What connects JFK, Allen Dulles and the CIA’s invasion at the Bay of Pigs to the movies Thunderball and Goldfinger? The answer is the relationship between the CIA and James Bond. In this episode we look at Fleming’s decades-long relationship with American intelligence, from the OSS through to the CIA, and how Dulles’ friendship with Fleming allowed the Agency to quietly improve their public image via the James Bond novels. We also examine how the CIA were invited to a screening of Goldfinger by Charles Russhon – the military consultant and technical advisor on the early Bond movies. Rounding off with the story of the CIA’s secret support for the movie of Thunderball and its connections to JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis, this is an epic exploration of the relationships between popular culture, high politics and intelligence.
James Bond is the world’s most famous secret agent. I’ll let that contradiction settle into your mind for a moment – the idea that a secret agent could be famous. This contradiction gets to the core of the relationship between the intelligence agencies and popular culture – the idea that secret institutions, or at least semi-secret institutions, have a public image that is as familiar to people as anything in the public domain, the social realm. What it demonstrates it that it is impossible to keep secrets in an absolute sense. Sooner or later, someone lets something slip or someone figures something out.
The intelligence agencies are the best example of this because they are the most secretive out of all the government departments, certainly here in the UK and I would argue as a general rule across all developed countries with advanced governments. But everyone knows that they exist. Government policy in the early days of the Cold War was to not admit that the CIA or MI6 existed. Journalists avoided writing about them, in this country there wasn’t even any legislation, any laws, that determined what MI6 were for and what they were and weren’t allowed to do. And yet, most people knew they existed. As always, the proof is in the pudding. When MI5 and MI6 were put on a formal, legal basis and became public institutions no one was surprised or shocked that we had secret police operating in this country and over much of the rest of the world. So this is doublethink, not just within these organisations but also in the minds of the citizens of the countries where they exist.
One of the primary drivers of this doublethink is popular culture, because when you have institutional secrecy and journalists looking the other way this creates a knowledge vacuum, which is inevitably filled by the imaginations of writers and other culture creators. Even now in the age of information more people watch spy films and read spy books than read MI5 files. So the fiction plays a critical role, without which this doublethink, this delicate balance of semi-secrecy could not be maintained. The spy fiction that has proved the most enduring, and the most popular and therefore the most influential is the James Bond fiction. The Bond books are still widely read, the films are the longest-running and one of the most successful film franchises of all time. They are also the most widely-studied and analysed. An entire field known as Bondology has grown up around this popular culture, analysing everything from its portrait of women to its relationship with real world geopolitical events to how it helps sell consumer gadgetry.
All of these elements matter, but to my mind it is the role of the James Bond fiction in maintaining this doublethink that is the most important element. The facts speak for themselves. The books were probably the first to mention the CIA by name. The very first James Bond novel Casino Royale features the CIA agent Felix Leiter, who helps James Bond take down Le Chiffre. While the first film to mention the acronym ‘CIA’ was Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, the first Bond film Dr No was only three years later and explicitly mentionst the CIA. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The OSS and Ian Fleming
As with all good stories, we will start at beginning. Ian Lancaster Fleming came from a banking family and after spending much of his young life failing at being a banker and failing to become a military officer he ends up joining British Naval Intelligence in World War 2. Fleming was the assistant to John Godfrey, the head of Naval Intelligence and often served as the liaison with other services like the Secret Intelligence Service, the Special Operations Executive and the Political Warfare Executive. Much of Fleming’s time was spent dreaming up various black operations and some historians think he was the author of the notorious Trout Memo, which is a manifesto for war by deception. One of the ideas to come from the Trout Memo was Operation Mincemeat, where British intelligence dropped a dead body in the sea off the coast of Spain carrying fake top secret documents. These documents indicated that the British would counter-attack the Nazis through Greece and Sardinia instead of the real target of Sicily.
Likewise, Fleming ran the 30 Assault Unit, a snatch squad who worked behind enemy lines to steal equipment and papers from the Nazis before they could be destroyed. They stole codebooks and encryption machines and sometimes even kidnapped people, officers or agents of the Nazis who were valuable for intelligence purposes. Fleming also developed false flag operations, and indeed the term ‘false flag’ appears in a couple of the Bond novels. I am unsure whether this is the first fiction to mention that term, it probably isn’t but I honestly don’t know. One of Fleming’s false flag plans was Operation Ruthless, a plan to steal a German bomber, crash it into the sea full of British soldiers in German uniform and signal for help. When the German boat arrived the soldiers would kill those on board and steal their Enigma coding machine. This was never carried out, but it gives you an idea of what Fleming did during WW2.
Fleming also spent some of the war in New York at the Rockefeller Center working for British Security Coordination, the British intelligence outfit in America. There he got to know William ‘little Bill’ Stephenson, a Canadian industrialist who worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service, what we would now call MI6. Stephenson is one of the people Fleming based James Bond on, though there are maybe two dozen others that also served as inspiration. Little Bill also set up Camp X, the first covert operations training camp in North America, in Whitby, Ontario. During the war maybe 2,000 students received training here including agents of British intelligence, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the FBI, American military intelligence and the OSS, among them several future heads of the CIA.
Fleming also got to know Wild Bill Donovan, the head of the OSS. When Donovan was first putting the OSS together he asked Fleming’s advice, and received a reported 90-page memo outlining which sort of men should be recruited, the kinds of training they would need and so on. However, this is where the story gets a little confusing. This memo is cited in numerous books on Fleming, but I haven’t been able to locate a copy or even anyone who has actually seen it for themselves. I’ve contacted the CIA, the National Archives and even the Imperial War Museum, who apparently displayed it at part of their James Bond exhibit in 2008. The best I could find was the National Archives said they had a much shorter memo from Fleming to Donovan.
It doesn’t help that Fleming later went around telling people that he wrote the ‘blueprint for the CIA’, which is certainly not true. There is a letter from John Pearson, who was writing the best-known biography of Fleming, to Allen Dulles in 1965 asking about this memo. Dulles replied saying he knew nothing about it, which is odd because he and Fleming were good friends. We do know that Bill Donovan awarded Fleming a .38 revolver inscribed with the words ‘for special services’. Regardless, the key point is that Fleming’s relationship with American intelligence dates back all the way to World War 2.
The CIA and James Bond Novels
This would become important in the 1950s and 60s when Fleming was writing the original James Bond novels. While American authors were effectively forbidden from mentioning the CIA by name, and the CIA even removed their name from film scripts, Fleming was publishing in the UK. As such, he could get away with it. However, he didn’t just get away with it, he was encouraged by Allen Dulles, who by that time was director of the CIA. The two maintained a correspondence for several years, met up numerous times and even interviewed each other for Redbook magazine.
You can read some of this correspondence on the Princeton library website and they do discuss the books and films somewhat. Dulles was introduced to the Bond books by none other than Jackie Kennedy, the wife of JFK, in the late 50s. The Kennedys were fans of the novels and indeed it was JFK listing one of them in a ‘desert island books’ profile that helped Fleming break into the US market on a large scale. In November 1959 Dulles wrote to Jackie Kennedy thanking her for turning him onto the books and sending the couple a copy of Fleming’s latest novel, Goldfinger. Keep that in mind for later.
However, the best account of the influence Dulles had on the Bond books is in a paper by Chris Moran, an academic who is an expert in the CIA. For his 2013 piece Ian Fleming and the Public Profile of the CIA Moran gained access to letters between the two where Dulles encouraged Fleming to paint the Agency in a more flattering light. Moran writes:
Carefully analyzed, the CIA that emerges from the 007 books is complex, multifaceted, and constantly evolving. In Fleming’s hands, the CIA is shown to be a force for good in a dangerous world. No mention is made of intelligence failures, nor does Fleming discuss any “dirty tricks,” which, as the Church Committee hearings confirmed in the 1970s, ranged from mindcontrol experiments to assassination plots to the infiltration of domestic dissident groups. The depiction of CIA officers as right-serving and loyal patriots was to a large extent a reflection of the author’s genuine fondness for the U.S. intelligence community. This affection derived from his positive experience of working alongside U.S. spies during the Second World War—when Fleming had been personal assistant to the director of British Naval Intelligence and had been required to take several trips to Washington, DC, as intelligence liaison—and was fortified by a close postwar friendship with fabled CIA Director Allen Dulles. The later Bond novels, in particular, offer a conspicuously deferential treatment of the agency. This was deliberate on Fleming’s part and coincides with the period when his acquaintance with Dulles was at its peak and when the latter was seeking the spy novelist’s advice on the pressing intelligence concerns of the day. Moreover, there are tantalizing hints, albeit nothing conclusive, that by the early 1960s the CIA was directly trying to influence Fleming’s coverage of the agency and his portrayal of the practice of intelligence more broadly. In a significant letter to New York Times journalist Arthur Krock, dated 12 July 1961, Fleming discloses that Dulles’s “organisation and staff have always co-operated so willingly with James Bond.”
Moran’s paper goes on to describe how the CIA, represented by Felix Leiter, usually take a supporting role, helping Bond with money and equipment but never being present for the final showdown with the villain. However, Dulles was largely happy with the CIA’s portrayal in the novels and even told the technical department at Langley to try to reproduce some of the gadgets and secreted weapons that appear in the books. Rosa Klebb’s famous spring-loaded shoe-knife was successfully created, though the in-car homing device from Goldfinger proved impossible.
The two became close friends, with Fleming sending Dulles signed copies of all of his novels. In return Dulles sent Fleming a copy of his own The Craft of Intelligence, before it had been vetted for distribution. Fleming mentions the book in their letters, in fact there’s a lot of mutual flattery between these two men. This led to Dulles leaning on Fleming to use his writings to portray the CIA more positively as the series progressed. Moran notes:
Dulles’s special acquaintance with Fleming brought benefits to the CIA’s public profile. Out of respect for his American friend, Fleming generously agreed to include in his later novels an increasing number of glowing references to the CIA. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Thunderball, published in March 1961. When Bond is assigned to the Bahamas to recover two missing nuclear bombs, his boss, “M,” dispenses with his characteristic sour countenance and economy of words to speak enthusiastically about the way the CIA is selflessly putting itself in the service of freedom: “We’ve teamed up with the CIA to cover the world. Allen Dulles is putting every man he’s got onto it and so am I.”
Indeed, references to Dulles are scattered throughout the later books in the James Bond series. At the end of The Man with the Golden Gun Bond is convalescing and is described sat in a chair wearing only a towel, reading Dulles’ book The Craft of Intelligence. There is even a 1964 memo to the director from the head of CIA public affairs recording mentions of Dulles in You Only Live Twice, along with his replacement John McCone. Continuing the theme the memo notes how the book describes the CIA very positively, as a ‘first rate bunch of chaps’. As such, the James Bond books were not only the first book series to give the CIA a public image, that image was quietly being encouraged and massaged by the Agency themselves. While they were turning down requests from various sources for help making documentaries and films featuring the CIA, they were carefully keeping a hand on the rudder of Fleming’s novels.
The CIA and James Bond Films
The first and most obvious influence of the CIA on the James Bond films is their influence on the novels. The movie adaptations don’t follow the books too closely in terms of plot, but they do reflect the tone and perspective of the novels very well. Felix Leiter always comes across as pretty likeable and trustworthy and hence the CIA are represented positively. Ian Fleming served as a consultant on the film productions, up until his death in 1964, though a lot of his ideas for casting were ignored so I’m not sure how much influence he had.
The second major connection between the CIA and the James Bond movies is that they were invited to a special screening of Goldfinger. A showing of the movie was set up for Eva Adams, director of the Mint at the MPAA headquarters on Eye Street in Washington DC. A memo by Deputy Director Marshall Carter records that he and his wife were invited to attend, and that he was unable to go because he was out of the country. The invitation was then extended to anyone else at the CIA who Carter thought might be interested and there is a note in the margin saying ‘a couple’, so presumably someone from the CIA went to this screening.
But let’s back up for a moment. I’m sure you’ve all seen Goldfinger, where a criminal breaks into Fort Knox with a plan to irradiate the gold. In Ian Fleming’s FBI file they note how one of the producers of the early Bonds Harry Saltzman – who had worked in psychological warfare during WW2 – had approached the Pentagon for help with the movie. They had contacted the FBI due to the script containing references to the Bureau. Because, in the eyes of the FBI, the books were full of ‘sex and bizarre situations’ they didn’t want anything to do with Goldfinger. They sent someone to talk to Saltzman and point out the existence of Public Law 670, which forbade them from using the FBI’s name without prior authorisation. It appears that in the original script Felix Leiter was going to have moved from the CIA to the FBI, but was changed back to being a CIA agent and all other references to the Bureau were removed.
Another FBI memo says that the Air Force had no intention of helping to make the film, and Goldfinger is not listed among the various documents I have obtained from the DOD. When they shot the scenes where Pussy Galore and her Flying Circus gas the soldiers near Fort Knox they hit on a problem. There was a 3000ft restriction on how low you could fly over the facility, which proved useless for film-making purposes. So they ordered the planes to fly at only 500 feet, leading to the military ‘going ape’ and 500 soldiers turning up on set. According to some versions, the crew ‘had to pay the 500 soldiers who rushed in from a nearby army base to investigate $20 and a bottle of beer each to act as fainting extras’. So it seems the film did get military support after all, those are real soldiers you see in Goldfinger.
Returning to the CIA memo, after discussing the invitation it says that the man who offered the invitation – Charles Russhon – also told Carter that they were working on a new Bond movie called Thunderball. The paragraph below that is redacted. So, two questions – who was Charles Russhon and what is in the redacted paragraph? Russhon was a former Air Force photographer, indeed he was the first American to photograph and film Hiroshima after the nuclear bombing. After the war Russhon got involved with Albert Broccoli and became a military technical advisor.
At this point this was a relatively new thing in Hollywood, Russhon was something of a trailblazer and he did a lot more than advise the producers. He also helped negotiate with the Turkish government for filming scenes for From Russia with Love, with the Air Force for the filming at Fort Knox for Goldfinger and facilitated Air Force pararescuemen appearing in Thunderball. He also obtained various gadgets and specialist equipment through his military and government contacts, for use in the films. To be clear Russhon had left the military at this point and was working for the producers, but there is an ambiguity here.
One profile of Russhon on the Air Force’s website says that he used his military connections to help get permission for filming in Istanbul. That means that From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball were all in some way assisted by the Pentagon, but the Pentagon is not credited on two of these films and their own files and databases do not mention them at all. The Air Force profile also says that Russhon acquired the high-octane fuel used at the end of Thunderball when they blow up the Disco Volante, Largo’s ship. I’m not sure where he got it from but by most reports it was far more powerful than they were expecting and produced a massive explosion that broke windows up to 30 miles away.
Russhon also obtained the Bell-Textron Jet Pack that we see Bond using at the beginning of Thunderball. The Jet Pack was used for a publicity stunt at the movie’s premiere, when the pilot took off from the top of the Manhattan Paramount Theater in New York. He landed OK but he was then arrested, along with some of the United Artists publicity team, because they didn’t bother getting a licence or any permission to carry out the stunt. For another Bond film he managed to persuade the New York police to suspend traffic on FDR Drive in Manhattan so they could shoot a chase sequence.
But, I would argue, Russhon’s crowning achievement was getting the end of Thunderball changed to accommodate the Fulton Skyhook. For those of you who can’t remember, at the end of Thunderball after the British Navy and the US Coast Guard help to defeat Largo’s forces Bond and Domino fight Largo on his boat. This culminates with the boat crashing and exploding, but fortunately Bond and Domino leap into the water at the last second. A plane then flies overhead, dropping an inflatable dinghy into the water, Bond and Domino climb aboard and send up a balloon with a rope attached. The plane comes in for another pass, snags the rope using the skyhook and lifts Bond and Domino out of the water while the credits roll.
That plane belonged to the CIA. It was a Boeing B-17 with a Fulton skyhook apparatus attached, used by the CIA to pick up agents from places where there was no runway or other means of escape. In 1962 the same plane was used in Operation Coldfeet, where it dropped CIA agents near to an abandoned Soviet base in the Arctic. A few days later the plane returned and picked up the agents via the skyhook. The plane was registered to Intermountain Aviation, a CIA front company based in Marana, Arizona. According to an extensive book by Dr Joe F Leeker of the University of Texas the plane was previously registered to Air America and before that to Atlantic-General Enterprises, both CIA front companies.
So, Thunderball was the first film that deals with the CIA’s public image to gain production support from the CIA. All previous CIA-supported films do not mention the Agency or are about something else entirely, like Animal Farm. Which brings me back to the CIA memo on Russhon inviting the Agency to a screening of Goldfinger. The second paragraph of this memo mentions the filming of Thunderball, while the third paragraph is completely redacted. My guess is that this third paragraph refers to Russhon asking the CIA for help on Thunderball, something that the CIA had never really done before. Clearly Russhon had good contacts within the Agency otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to speak to the Deputy Director to invite him to watch Goldfinger. Russhon managed to persuade other government agencies to loan them equipment or help get permission for filming, and all histories agree that it was Russhon who negotiated the skyhook used in Thunderball.
Herein lies an important point, not just about the CIA’s public image and the propaganda around that, but also about the film industry’s dependence on the government. Thunderball was a massive commercial success – adjusting for inflation it took over a billion dollars, the only Bond film to do so until Skyfall in 2012. Without these gadgets and vehicles and the use of military personnel it is would not be anywhere near as spectacular and would not have been as successful. What generates buzz around a movie and thus drives audiences to pay full whack to see it at the cinema is the sense of it having something you haven’t seen before, and the CIA’s skyhook is a great example of that. The technology literally hadn’t appeared in a movie before. It is the same with locations that only the government has the power to grant access to – these are what filmmakers use to add something new and fresh to their films, to give them that little something extra. So, the British and American militaries and the CIA played a crucial role in building up the Bond franchise in its early years, in helping it to stand out from the box office crowd. Without their help it probably, almost certainly, wouldn’t be the 3rd highest grossing franchise of all time.
Thunderball was also the last time that the CIA directly assisted the James Bond film franchise. Since then I can find no evidence of their involvement. However, the Agency did develop something of an obsession with James Bond. CIA agent and Watergate conspirator E Howard Hunt wrote a series of spy novels, some of which were at the Agency’s behest as they looked for an American equivalent to Fleming’s Bond novels. At one point CIA director Richard Helms approached MPAA capo Jack Valenti to push the idea of adapting some of these novels into films, though that never happened.
This CIA obsession with James Bond continues into the more recent period. Chase Brandon was clearly a Bond fan – his email address is [email protected]. He also worked on 24, where the hero’s name is Jack Bauer, at least one of the Jason Bourne movies, and Meet the Parents/Meet the Fockers where Robert De Niro’s character is called Jack Byrnes. There’s a pattern with these names that I’m sure is not a coincidence. In one article Brandon even makes this quite explicit, saying:
I really think Jason Bourne could become what we need in this country – an American James Bond.
The CIA’s James Bond File
Another aspect to this that is very interesting to me is the CIA’s James Bond file. While there are very few CIA documents about Bond – and absolutely none that I can find on them loaning the skyhook to the producers of Thunderball – they did maintain a clip file through their Open Source Center. This consists of dozens of news cuttings that mention Bond or his code-moniker 007. I discovered these while trawling through the CIA’s electronic reading room late one night and I had to file a FOIA request to get copies of them because the CIA haven’t digitised them yet. There are probably some that I’ve missed but I scanned the paper copies and put them together to give you all an impression of what’s there and what this adds up to.
Essentially, the CIA were monitoring a variety of media coverage to see how the James Bond meme was playing out over time. It appears they began in 1964 – the same year that Ian Fleming died and the same year Russhon invited the CIA to watch Goldfinger. This went on to about 1980 or so, though it’s possible they continued after that and the more recent entries haven’t been added to the CREST database. What is most obvious is that almost none of these stories are about the books or films – in fact there is only one review in this collection and, unsurprisingly, that was of Thunderball, and compared it to another great spy film of the time The Spy who Came in From the Cold.
The majority of the articles are about real life, and are using the ‘007’ and ‘James Bond’ memes as a shorthand for spycraft or for the CIA. This still goes on now, obviously, but these days we have more cultural reference points, more popular characters in the spy cultural genre – Jason Bourne, Carrie from Homeland, Edward Snowden and so on. However, there’s a weird doublethink in the way these news stories use the memes. Sometimes they are used as a way of saying ‘the CIA’ or ‘the intelligence services’ but other times they’re used as a shorthand for what the CIA isn’t. So we have stories like ‘Minutemen could give lessons to James Bond in super secrecy’ which is about right wing militias using very covert spycraft. Another one is titled ‘James Bond in the Real World’ which is about Phillipe Thyraud de Vosjoli, the French spy who defected to the CIA and then helped write the fiction book Topaz. Another ‘Even 007 May Goof, Occasionally’ is about strange leaks that ‘could not have done more to more to undermine faith in the CIA if they had been designed for that purpose’.
Contrasting these we have pieces titled ‘CIA Agents Don’t Look Like James Bond Spies’ which is about a visit to Langley by Lee Hamilton, the congressman who went on to co-chair the 9/11 Commission. Another ‘CIA doesn’t want James Bond types’ is about protests at CIA recruitment tables at universities. Another one titled ‘Calling James Bond’ even cites Allen Dulles’ book The Craft of Intelligence saying that ‘James Bond, the fictional spy, bears no resemblance to a real-life agent’. That is truly beyond irony.
A third way that these memes are used is when we get into the late 1970s after the Church Committee and the criticism of the CIA that characterises that decade. When Stansfield Turner came in as Director news stories started appearing talking about how he was going to clean up the Agency, using James Bond as a metaphor for what the CIA were in the past but will be no longer under the new, moral regime. One article even says, ‘This is Stansfield Turner, he killed James Bond’.
The whole file is fascinating, it also includes stories about double agent Kim Philby and how the film Goldfinger was banned in Israel because of Gert Frobe’s Nazi past (he played Auric Goldfinger). There is also a couple of clippings about East Germany accusing Bond of being fascist, which is in some ways quite accurate. However, it is this monitoring of the three-way use of the Bond meme that I think is important, because some of these stories were probably planted by the CIA. Through the 60s and early 70s the meme was used in a contradictory way, saying at the same time that the CIA were like James Bond and that they were not at all like James Bond. Then Stansfield Turner came in and the story became that the CIA used to be like James Bond but aren’t any more. If that isn’t a CIA-encouraged PR operation then I don’t know what I’m talking about.
There is one other entry in this CIA James Bond file that I find very funny. When I first read this I genuinely laughed out loud, it really tickled me. It is not a newspaper story but an advertisement someone placed in Insider’s Newsletter saying ‘Help Wanted, Apply Box 007, Langley, VA.’ It goes on to say that the CIA are ‘suffering from a ‘thriller gap’ in the literary Cold War’ saying that the British government were in the lead thanks to the James Bond novels, that the Soviets were catching up but the CIA were languishing in third place. I find this funny because like all great satire, it’s absolutely true. Everything we’ve looked at in this episode points to this being truth disguised as satire, rather than someone just taking the mick. Those of you who have listened to my episode on Topaz may remember that French satirical magazines were making the same ‘joke’ about that novel, saying that it was a piece of CIA-sponsored artistic propaganda.
The CIA and James Bond and the Bay of Pigs
All of which brings us neatly onto the Cuban question. But in case anyone doesn’t know what I mean by that – Topaz is all about the Cuban Missile Crisis and the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs. And so, in a somewhat more oblique way, is Thunderball. In Thunderball Largo, on behalf of SPECTRE, hijack a plane carrying two nuclear bombs and use them to blackmail NATO governments. They hide the missiles in the Caribbean.
The novel came out in March 1961, literally weeks before the CIA’s failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. When Castro took power in 1959 then Vice-President Richard Nixon went to visit him. He came back certain that Castro was a dangerous Communist who couldn’t be reasoned with, and memos said that the elimination of Castro instantly became a priority. As middle class Cubans fled to southern Florida the CIA recruited and trained approximately 1300 to form a small covert army. After an aerial attack using American planes painted with Cuban colours to try to destroy the Cuban Air Force, the 1300 Cuban exiles were landed on a beach at the Bay of Pigs. The CIA and American government plan was to pretend they weren’t exiles but were a spontaneous uprising from within Cuba. But the invasion failed miserably, the Pentagon never got permission to step in on behalf of the fake uprising, and many of the CIA’s covert army were killed or captured.
This invasion had several massively important consequences. First, it was a huge and humiliating failure for both the CIA and the USA as a whole. Second, it forced the CIA out into the open, at least to some extent, whereas before they had maintained almost total secrecy. The failure of the invasion led JFK to sack Allen Dulles as Director of the CIA. It also led to a follow-up operation, codenamed Mongoose, where the CIA carried out sabotage against Cuba, used local mafia to cause trouble, and ultimately was going to lead to a second attempted invasion using another army of Cuban refugees.
The Soviets got wind of all this and began the process of moving nuclear missiles into Cuba to resist the second invasion, causing the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy backed down, cancelled the second invasion attempt, shut down the training camps and the whole thing fell apart. Some have argued that this is what led to JFK being assassinated, and Allen Dulles using his influence on the Warren Commission to cover this up.
To help you understand how all this ties together I will also point you to the fact that Ian Fleming was invited to dinner by JFK in March 1960, when Kennedy was preparing his run for president. Kennedy asked Fleming about the Cuban situation and Fleming offered a number of suggestions. These included spreading rumours that radioactive fallout from nuclear testing caused impotence in men with beards, causing Cuban men to shave off their beards and thus break a symbolic connection with Castro and the revolution. Fleming also came up with the idea of building a giant flaming cross and flying it over Cuba. This was later adapted into a plan for staging a second coming of Christ in the skies over Cuba to try to brand Castro the anti-Christ.
So it is certainly curious that Fleming’s book in effect predicted the Missile Crisis, and that the film adaptation of that book a couple of years after the Missile Crisis was assisted by the CIA. I think it is more than curious. I think this was the CIA beginning to manipulate their own public image through popular culture, in response to the Bay of Pigs failure and the increasing publicity around the Agency.
My explanation for this goes back to the start of this episode – the doublethink of denying that a secret service exists, while everyone with half a clue knows it exists. This was no longer possible for the CIA after the Bay of Pigs operation so they had to adapt this existential doublethink into a moral doublethink. Instead of pretending that they didn’t exist they conceded that they did exist, but smudged the moral question of what they did and whether it was right. They did this by sometimes encouraging the idea that they were like James Bond – i.e. globetrotting serial killers – and other times encouraging the opposite idea and saying they were nothing like James Bond. Likewise, when the Church Committee and other investigations proved that at times they were even worse than James Bond they started encouraging the idea that they used to be like that but had stopped and were now behaving themselves.
And that is the story of the CIA and James Bond.