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The Agency, a major CBS drama series about the CIA that began being broadcast in late September 2001, featured storylines with remarkable similarities to the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax attacks that occurred in the U.S. shortly after them. One of the show’s executive producers said the parallels were so apparent that “people are asking me, ‘Are we showing the bad guys our script?'” because “it seems like they’re kind of following, in some ways, things that we’re doing.” [1] Significantly, these storylines were written before September 11, and the show was made with extensive assistance from the CIA. Some of the show’s storylines, including those resembling 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, were actually suggested to one of the writers by the CIA. [2]

News reports around the time The Agency was broadcast noted the similarity between the show’s storylines and the horrifying events that had taken place in the U.S. No one suggested, however, that this similarity might have been the result of people having foreknowledge of the terrorist attacks that hit America in late 2001. But surely we need to look closer and consider whether some individuals, perhaps employees of the CIA, did indeed know about these attacks in advance and, for as yet unknown reasons, wanted episodes of The Agency to depict events similar to what was going to happen.


The Agency was a prime-time TV series that told stories of life inside the CIA and showed agents tackling problems of national security. [3] The villains they faced included Arab terrorists, Colombian drug dealers, and Iraqis.

The show featured well-known actors such as Gil Bellows, Will Patton, Ronny Cox, and Gloria Reuben. [4] Its principal executive producer was Wolfgang Petersen, who directed blockbuster movies including Air Force One and In the Line of Fire. [5]

The CIA provided substantial support for The Agency. It vetted scripts and allowed its employees to be used as extras. The Agency was also the first television program permitted to film inside CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. [6] There was even going to be a “big red carpet premiere” of the show’s pilot episode at CIA headquarters the week before it aired on TV, on September 18, but the event was canceled because the CIA was busy responding to the 9/11 attacks. [7]


Three storylines written for The Agency are particularly notable. Two of these were made into episodes but one was never used.

The storyline that was not used bore a striking resemblance to the events of September 11, when, according to the official story, Osama bin Laden had four U.S. aircraft hijacked. Michael Frost Beckner, the creator of The Agency, revealed to Variety magazine that four months before 9/11, he wrote an episode “in which bin Laden had three U.S. planes hijacked.” The script, though, “was never completed.” [8] An episode of The Agency based on this plot could plausibly have been produced between May 2001, when the script was written, and September 11, when it would have become unusable. But Beckner has not said why such an episode was never made.

Beckner has revealed, however, that some storylines for The Agency were suggested to him by Chase Brandon, the CIA’s entertainment liaison officer (who happens to be a cousin of Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones). [9] But Beckner has not said whether Brandon suggested to him the storyline about bin Laden having three American aircraft hijacked.


The pilot episode of The Agency also had similarities to what happened on September 11. David Clennon, one of the show’s stars, commented that the episode was “spooky” in that it anticipated “a 9/11-type event, only taking place in London.” [10] The storyline, according to Beckner, who wrote the episode, “was based on the premise that bin Laden attacks the West and a war on terrorism invigorates the CIA.” [11] Osama bin Laden’s name is mentioned twice in the episode. [12] Author Tricia Jenkins commented that the timing of the pilot episode was also “eerie,” as the episode was originally scheduled to air “just two weeks after 9/11,” on September 27, 2001. [13]

In the episode, it is revealed that the CIA has identified al-Qaeda as a threat, and has discovered that the terrorist group is planning to carry out a major attack in Europe. A CIA officer who infiltrated the group is able to provide the agency with the date of the planned attack, but this is only three days away. Agents then learn that the terrorists intend to bomb the Harrods department store in London, England–a target that one character describes as “an international symbol of consumerism.” The CIA shares what it has learned with British intelligence officers and helps to avert the attack at the last minute. [14]

As well as noting “the eerie coincidence of an attack on a ‘symbol of capitalism,'” Newsday pointed out that the episode “inadvertently anticipated debates in the aftermath of the [9/11] attacks about how harsh and indiscriminate our response to the terrorists should be, and what more, if anything, our intelligence operatives should be empowered to do in the way of preventive defense. It also anticipated, at least allusively, the response of CIA champions … who’ve said that our spies failed to detect the [9/11] attacks because their hands have been tied by civil libertarians who care more about being ‘good guys’ than winning.” [15]

The broadcast of the pilot episode on September 27 was canceled in response to the 9/11 attacks, with another episode of The Agency replacing it. [16] Gail Katz, one of the show’s executive producers, commented around that time: “Our show seems to be too close to what’s in the headlines. Too close, in fact, that … it’s not appropriate for viewing.” The pilot episode finally went out on November 1, with all references to Osama bin Laden removed. [17]

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