Speed Reads

government vs. hollywood

The NSA really hated this Will Smith movie

Internal NSA emails obtained by BuzzFeed News show the surveillance agency was not a fan of 1998's Enemy of the State, starring Will Smith. Though some employees were excited to see the movie before it was released, that enthusiasm turned to irritation after viewing.

"Unfortunately, the truth isn't always as riveting as fiction," one email says, "and creative license may mean that 'the NSA,' as portrayed in a given production, bears little resemblance to the place where we all work." Though released more than a decade before the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden came to light, the movie cast the NSA as the villain, taking a critical eye to its spying powers and opposing its expansion.

In 2001, then-NSA head Michael Hayden invited CNN to profile the agency in an open attempt to counter the movie's bad PR. "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 said.