At the end of Argo, after the embassy workers have been saved, amidst an American media victory dance and the cheers of thankful Americans, Jack O’Donnell (played by Bryan Cranston) speaks with Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck). O’Donnell gives Mendez the greatest news an intelligence agent could receive; he’s been awarded an “Intelligence Star”.
But there’s a caveat: it all has to be secret.
O’DONNELL: He wants to give you the Intelligence Star. You’re getting the highest award of merit of the Clandestine Services of these United States. Ceremony’s two weeks from today.
MENDEZ: If they push it a week, I can bring Ian. That’s his winter break.
O’DONNELL: The op was classified so the ceremony’s classified. He can’t know about it. Nobody can know about it.
MENDEZ: They’re gonna hand me an award, then they’re gonna take it back?
O’DONNELL: If we wanted applause, we would have joined the circus.
And that’s what’s so unfortunate about this story. The CIA--as Michael C will go into much greater detail next week--never celebrates its successes. The public never hears about the hundreds of thousands of millions of success stories conducted by CIA operatives and analysts every year to keep us safe.
They keep it all secret.
Take this awesome, amazing, heroic story of a lone American heading into Iran and rescuing his fellow citizens. Wired will never run a feature article about it. Tony Mendez? He’ll never be able to write an autobiography and use this story as the basis for chapter nine.
Because this story is secret, Hollywood will never find out about it, so a film version will never get made. Because the film won’t get made, hundreds of media outlets won’t write thousands of articles about it during that very successful film’s Oscar run. And Lord knows, because this operation is a secret, it’ll never win an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Because the CIA does its work in the dark. We never hear the success stories.
(Remember, if they wanted applause, they’d join the circus.)