back to article Former DEA agents sue over American Gangster

A group of former Drug Enforcement Agency members has filed a class action lawsuit against the makers of American Gangster claiming it's defamatory in its depiction of DEA operatives as "villains". The film describes the case of real-life heroin dealer Frank Lucas who, following his arrest in 1975, turned government informant …


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  1. JP
    Black Helicopters

    Well done...

    We may not have known the names of the agents involved in the corruption investigation mentioned, except that they have come out and named themselves.

    Can you sue yourself for defamation?

    Actually, can you sue your co-defendants? I'd be slightly peeved if I was named in this lawsuit by an ex-colleague.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Poor sods

    So Hollywood movies aren't the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Whatever next? People claiming Santa Clause isn't real.

  3. Graham Marsden


    Hollywood et al have been busy re-writing historical fact to make it "more interesting" for years now, what makes this case any different?!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hollywood untrue

    Who'da thunk it.


  5. Brandon Greene

    What about U-571?

    Does anyone recall U-571, the farcical story of how the Americans captured a German sub and cracked the Enigma code. There's a whole generation of kids now who believe thats how it really happened. Maybe the UK government and the British heros who actually broke the code should be suing too. Maybe then Hollywood will either stick to history or fiction and stop blurring the lines between them... but probably not. Or perhaps Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson really are representitive of the grasp Hollywood has on reality and history and they really do think it becomes whatever they say it is.

  6. Kenny Millar

    @Poor sods

    What do you mean Santa Claus isn't real?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Based on a true story

    Just because it says "Based on a true story" at the end of the film doesn't mean all of it is true, then they would've said "True story". Besides isn't that statement part of the film, making it and the whole film potentially completely fictitious. How could this case not have been thrown out, its a movie ffs!

  8. Scott

    British heroes broke Enigma?

    > Maybe the UK government and the British heros who actually broke the code should be suing too.

    Um, wasn't it Poles that broke the Enigma code? Then handed it to the British several years later?

    Lawsuit on it's way.

  9. BoldMan

    "Based on a true story"

    But when they say that how can you tell which bits were invented and which bits are accurate?

    Putting a blanket statement like they did at the end of the movie implies that this is "fact", so if that fact is wrong and actually defames REAL people, then I think they are right in suing.

    Anyway, the typical audience Hollywood makes movies for nowadays has an increasingly limited ability to TELL fiction from fact. I mean look at how many christian fundamentalists there are in the USA!!!

  10. paul

    See also Fargo:

    (from wikipedia)

    Fargo begins with the opening text:

    THIS IS A TRUE STORY. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.

    Although the film itself is completely fictional, the Coens claim that many of the events that take place in the movie were actually based on true events from other cases that they threw together to make one story. Joel Coen said, "We weren't interested in that kind of fidelity. The basic events are the same as in the real case, but the characterizations are fully imagined." He later noted, "If an audience believes that something's based on a real event, it gives you permission to do things they might otherwise not accept."

  11. Stephen

    Ker -Ching!

    Dominic Amorosa: "I don't know what these people are thinking but they are going to pay for it."

    You can actually her the Ker-Ching in his voice as he says it, can't you!?

  12. cor
    Thumb Down

    @ Brandon

    Sadly this is too common. Very Orwellian, if you are familiar with the history 'correction' methods described in 1984.

    Disney is one of the worst for distorting history (and culture) for profit and merchandise. Pocahontas my ass.

  13. Allan Wenham

    British heroes broke Enigma - Yes they did mostly

    >Um, wasn't it Poles that broke the Enigma code? Then handed it to the British several years later?

    A Pole part broke -one- of the pre war Enigma machines but it had less wheels and was was less complex then the German Army Enigma (which in turn was less complex then the German Navy Enigma ) as I recall.

    There is no doubt that without the the British work both Army and Navy Enigma's would have been unbroken, but yes, they would have been delayed if the commercial Enigma machine information had not been made available.

    U571 Film was 100% BS- US didn't help (with Enigma) they only relayed some encrypted messages as I understand it.

  14. Rob


    Polish mathematicians developed the Bombes, which we then used in enigma cracking. Realising that their country was fucked, they passed the technology to us.

    Two British sailors lost their lives getting stuff out of U571 (or whichever) which proved invaluable. They'd be the heroes referred to.

    Re the movie U571: I couldn't comment. Based on what I heard, I've refused to watch it and intend to go to my grave in that state.

  15. Keith T
    Black Helicopters

    Howard Marks

    Howard has a few stories about US planes transporting substances around.

    Years ago there was none of yer skunk, just loads of black stuff from Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Transportation was, apparently, often courtesy of Uncle Sam's boys.

    Noriega also used to use US planes to send marching powder to the Land of the Free (tm).

    It almost seems to be policy rather than a one-off.

  16. oxo

    And lets not start on...

    .. Braveheart..

  17. Anonymous Coward

    @U571, misc.

    While the film was mostly BS, I believe that an Enigma machine was recovered from a German sub before the war ended---just not likely in the way the film portrayed. While this was useful, it was the code breaking efforts of the Brits (and the development of the first digital electronic computer--Colossus?) that did most to turn the tide a.f.a.i.k.

    Re. DEA agents complaining about the film not being factual... Aww, are they complaining about not being treated fairly and with respect? I have little doubt that if the film doesn't speak of actual corruption in that one case, that there's plenty to go around.

    IMHO the film should at least say "based on a true story", or even have a disclaimer stating that some of the events portrayed are fictitious---why do people insist on reopening old wounds and stirring up controversy just to make a buck?

  18. Herby

    Based on a true story (but mostly fiction)

    Seems to apply to quite a bit of what is shown at the cinema these days. I give as an example _An Inconvenient Truth_. One of many. TV shows are even worse.

  19. Eugene Goodrich

    Critical thinking, skepticism

    We here in the United States have for some time lamented the cessation of teaching of critical thinking in (primary) school. Whether that is just nostalgia, nobody has the double-blind statistical testing to say.

    Hollywood showing dramatic stories and describing them as true is an exercise for the thoughtful skeptic, as is any other claim prior to verification.

    I happen to be a skeptic most days, so I can give advice on how to translate the text in question:

    "Based on a true story" - writers were inspired to create this story after hearing a story that they're pretty sure is true.

    "This story is true!" or "Other events are depicted exactly as they happened." - we have written this story to appear convincingly authentic to the kind of person who think our own claims that it is true are satisfactory verification of the matter.

  20. Deryk Barker

    Enigma etc.

    Amazing how much confusion there still is over this.

    The Polish broke the 3-rotor Enigma in the 1930s - thanks, in large part, to the spy Hans Thilo, who provided code books. The main figure in this was Marian Rejewsky whose team worked for the Biuo Szyfrow,

    The bomba was invented then.

    When it became clear that Poland would not last long, the Poles - to their eternal credit - arranged a meeting with the French and British and handed over everything they had.

    (Incidentally - and not much of a reflection on the powers that were - Rejewsky made it to England, but was never allowed to work on Enigma by the British...)

    At Bletchley Park this work was extended, in partcular with the bombe, designed by Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman.

    Colossus was designed (by Max Newman, Turing's supervisor at Cambridge) and built at the PO Research Station at Dollis Hill, by Tom Flowers, Sid Broadhurst and W.W. Chandler.

    It was NOT designed to crack Enigma, but to crack "Fish" a teleprinter-code used for sending strategic, rather than tactical information.

    Alan Turing was NOT involved in the design of Colossus - he was in Washington DC at the time.

    And, oh yes a codebook was indeed rescued from a sinking U-boat - at the cost of at leat one British life.

    Put not thy trust in Wikipedia or the American notion of history. (After all, in "The Burma Story" Erroll Flynn apparently defeated the Japanese in Burma single-handed - despite the fact that no US troops fought in Burma at all).

    Hell, what did Henry Ford say about history?

    Perhaps more to the point is what George Santayana said...

    All of this information is readily available - particularly in Hodge's magnificent biography of Turing and on Tony Sale's codeberakers' web site:

  21. Joe Stalin

    Hollywood, all amatures

    Historic Scotland makes Holywood look like girl scouts. Historic Scotland are supposed to protect scottish history and historic monuments and building, they seem to chuck away whole sections of history if it doesn't fit their percived take on it. They would reduce Scotland to a "Brigadoon" meets "Braveheart" to keep the tourists happy. They are the embodyment of all that is bad about QUANGOs (quasi-atonomous non-goverment organisation), come the revelotion they be the first put up against the wall.

  22. Pierre

    Arabian Guy sues Fox...

    For all the poorly thought footage that they broadcast as "based on real facts" in which all remotely tanned people are scaremongers.

    Not true of course, but they should ;)

    Actually we all should for I can't find a single socio-professionnal category that has never been badly misrepresented in an holliwood movie or another footage.

    Ho, and the day an AI gains its full democratic rights, I wouldn't like to be a producer. Nor the day aliens discover the subtties of US judiciary habits. Man, this is gonna be a huge pile of galactic cash out of their pockets!

    I wonder why AMFM Did'Nt sUe thEM aLrEAdy...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Deryk Barker

    Actually as a non yank (I'm aussie) I get rather peeved with the yanks claiming other people's glory.

    However I am pretty sure that US troops did indeed fight in Burma, both on the ground (e.g. "Merrill's Marauders") and in the air, eg the "Flying Tigers" and the USAAF flyers supplying China over "the hump".

    Try for a probably US centric but easy to find description of US involvement in the theatre.

    To a lesser extent I also get pissed with you Brits who in the past - WWI especially - frequently claimed Commonwealth/Dominion/Imperial troops victories ("Glorious British Troops on the Somme") as British and the those same forces losses were correctly presented as Australian, Indian, NZ etc ("those undisciplined colonials").

  24. Anonymous Coward

    @ Joe Stalin

    "come the revelotion they be the first put up against the wall"

    and what? smeared with shea butter? anointed with aloe?

  25. wim

    truth and holywood ?

    What, Holywood does not tell the truth ?

    I really thought that I could watch any movie I wanted after watching Hackers, I am still waiting for the sexy lady to show up after watching Blowfish and now you tell me it is not true ?

    Hacking (let's not start to try to explain the difference between hacking and cracking and leeching) is not possible with the use of only 5 keys ? Now I am sooo dissapointed.

  26. steve

    I'm English, so does that mean.......

    I can sue hollywood, because they always use an English actor for the bad guy in action movies?

  27. Matty

    They seem to be suprised and upset...

    C'mon guys - this is Hollywood we're talking about here. Since when did Truth and Facts ever mean anything to them? Look at all the 'factual' films they've made - especially where other parts of the world are involved. The yanks won WWII, won every battle in 'Nam (so how they lost the war is anyone's guess!) etc etc ad infinitum. I just can't watch some of the drivel they churn out any more.

  28. John Prew

    my blah

    To the Aussie AC - 'However I am pretty sure that US troops did indeed fight in Burma'

    Yeah there were US troops in Burma, as well as US trained Chinese troops. They fought alongside the British and Indian troops.

    (Least thats what i remember my grandfather telling me, he fought in Burma).

    On the article subject. What a totally ridiculous case. Okay yes, it didn't portray the Narcs in a favourable light, but watching the film it's clear that this is fictitious. That's the idea of the disclaimer. Most people know that anything produced by Hollywood needs to be viewed with an objective eye. Bringing this to sue, means they bring themselves into the public eye, rather than people just dismissing it.

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