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Their cloak-and-dagger aura, cool-as-ice agents and cutting-edge technology are staples of Hollywood blockbusters. But eh actual stories behind America's elite intelligence and law enforcement agencies - the C.I.A., US Army Intelligence, the F.B.I., the O.S.S. - are more astonishing than any screenwriter's flights of fancy. Now - for the first time - recently declassified documents and newly discovered footage from both sides of the Iron Curtain penetrate the shadows of this carefully concealed world to uncover the history-shaping influence of the modern spy machine.
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Perhaps the end of the cold war has left you wishing for the good old days of classic espionage. Well, feed your nostalgia for cloak-and-dagger stories of secret agents with the History Channel's excellent series, Declassified: The Inside Story of American Espionage Agencies. In the History Channel's characteristic style, this boxed set of four tapes looks at five enthralling spheres of recently reclassified documentation--including miles of video footage that is accessible to the public for the first time.
Volume 1 recounts the history of the CIA from its inception at the end of World War II, exploring the organization's global information collecting. Footage from the Cuban Missile Crisis and the U-2 spy plane incident over the Soviet Union is particularly interesting. The end of the volume turns toward the CIA's post-cold-war refocus on weapons of mass destruction, the mafia, and the drug trade. Volume 2 examines U.S. Army intelligence gathering--from decoding World War II encrypted messages to detecting saboteurs and traitors on the home front. The video highlight is "Operation Torch"--whose content we won't spoil before you see it. Volume 3, titled "The FBI Spy Files," shows video from the J. Edgar Hoover era through busts of big-time spy rings. With declassified material from World War II, the video looks in particular at Alger Hiss and controversy during the Civil Rights Movement. Finally, volume 4, "Secret Air Operations," takes you on B24 Liberators among other craft to learn about the CIA's precursor, the Office of Strategic Services, and how weapons were supplied to saboteurs inside Germany during the war. The program then turns to Vietnam and the Gulf War. --Erik Macki
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