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Hollywood: The Pentagon's new advisor

Die Hard screenwriter Steve de Souza has revealed he was among a group of Hollywood film makers asked to give advice to the Pentagon following the 11 September attacks.

Last October about two dozen writers and directors were commissioned to brainstorm with Pentagon advisers and officials in an anonymous building in LA.

The Pentagon wanted to know what could happen next, following the attacks, which devastated the US and killed more than 3,000 people.

Despite ground rules that details of these sessions would not be publicly discussed, de Souza, who the screenwriter for Die Hard I and II, agreed to talk to BBC One's Panorama in general about the meetings, which have so far been shrouded in secrecy.

"My first thought was if they're coming to me they must be in trouble," de Souza told Panorama.


The sessions were spread over three days. As for the location, he will only say they were held "in a very dark room".

There were no armed guards or uniformed generals but there was an optical link to "one high-ranking official who was unable to make it and who we communicated with".

He added: "That was the closest it got to an underground bunker thing. We were in an utterly ordinary office building but we had somebody on a screen talking to us like Captain Kirk."

If we got one new idea, or one new vulnerability we thought of that the Pentagon would not think of then we accomplished something

Steve de Souza

De Souza said the participants had previously been sent intelligence briefings of material that had just been declassified.

"We learned about the things found in the al-Qaeda camps about biological and chemical warfare. All this stuff just struck us like a blow when we were first exposed to it. So the first day was pretty grim," he said.

"It was explained that we've got all our people thinking in the channels they're trained to think in (but) we want some left-field, off-the-wall ideas; say the craziest thing that comes into your mind.

"So if we got one new idea, or one new vulnerability that we thought of that the Pentagon would not think of then we accomplished something."


Although they have been mocked, de Souza is now convinced the meetings were worthwhile.

"You know, a good idea is a good idea," he said.

But Robert Baer, former CIA agent and author of See No Evil, is disconsolate at the prospect of the Pentagon trying to import skills of imagination and creativity that may be needed.

He believes such exercises are a poor substitute for first-hand intelligence.

"It's idiotic," he said. "The Pentagon should be finding ways to penetrate these groups.

"You can't ask Hollywood to do that. They should be having people with imagination in the government saying this [gathering intelligence] is what we've got to do."

Panorama September 11th - a Warning from Hollywood will be shown on BBC One on Sunday 24 March at 2215GMT.

See also:

12 Nov 01 | Showbiz
Bush adviser meets Hollywood execs
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