Works of fiction as open-source intelligence? (3 Days of the Condor)

In the 1975 political thriller “Three Days of the Condor”, the protagonist Joseph Turner (played by Robert Redford) works in a clandestine office in New York City, which fronts as the “American Literary Historical Society”. Turner’s task is to read books, newspapers, and magazines from around the world, looking for hidden meanings and new ideas. As part of his duties, Turner files a report to CIA headquarters on a low-quality thriller novel his office has been reading, pointing out strange plot elements therein, and the unusual assortment of languages into which the book has been translated [1].

I wonder if something like this does actually occur in the real world: Do government (intelligence) agencies routinely and systematically analyze works of fiction, i. e. novels, short stories, movies etc. in search for information that could potentially, even by a very long shot, be relevant for national or international security?

Just as a side note about this sort of thing - When one of Cheney’s minions was charged with revealing that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative (in revenge for her husband speaking out) I read an analysis in a major newspaper. They took the name of a company from her resume, one she had claimed to work for during her CIA stint. An internet search revealed someone else with the same company name in their resume online. The sent an email asking him if he had also been really working for the CIA. They never got a reply, but that resume was taken down too.

Famously, the FBI showed up at John Campbell’s office at Astounding Stories in the 40s, asking him to stop publishing stories mentioning atomic bombs. Campbell pointed out that if the stories stopped appearing, someone might realized something was up and the FBI decided not to ask for the ban.

The same FBI agents also investigated The Last Secret by Dana Chambers, which appeared in 1943. Unlike Cartmill’s crude alien allegory, Chambers’ was set in the present.

The NDRC was the real committee working on the atomic bomb, among many other things. Constant is a transparent ruse for it’s real-life head James Conant.

Chambers went on to describe work being done on cyclotrons to release the secrets of atomic energy. The rest of his book is thriller science nonsense, and the beginning was taken almost word-for-word from a New York Times article, but there were enough clues for a sufficiently astute Nazi agent to start a file. The *Times *did, in fact, stop publishing all stories about the atomic bomb after 1941, after printing dozens that year. That should have made anyone suspicious, more so than a change of plots in Campbell’s Astounding.

You can read the full story of The Last Secret here.

This is a similar situation, but it involved military intell reading local works, not foreign ones.
In WW2, the crossword puzzles in the British newspapers included many words which were also the code names used in the top secret plans for D-Day. There was very serious concern that messages were being sent by or to Geman spies. British spy agency MI5 arrested the authors of the puzzles.

I’ve heard that Tom Clancy was interviewed when he started publishing, to verify that he had no actual sources among the military or clandestine communities.

I would guess that computers have made government surveillance of this types easier, by scanning for key words or phrases. More attention is likely paid towards communications such as message board posts, but it’s likely they still look at published works as well.

HA! They’ll never take me alive! Never!

Nobody was ever arrested. They were interrogated but since they were obviously innocent nothing was done to them.

Although the words in the crossword WERE actual D-Day codewords–they didn’t get into the puzzle by pure chance. I’m not sure how they could have tipped off German spies though. It’s not like the words were “naval” “invasion” “France” “June” and “sixth.”