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Homeland Security Classifies TRON as "Sensitive"

By ewhac in Fiction
Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 12:00:00 PM EST
Tags: (all tags)

Edward Jeffries -- FPI

BURBANK, CA - Reports are emerging from members of the movie industry that the Department of Homeland Security has designated the 1982 film TRON as "sensitive", and ordered Walt Disney Studios to turn over all copies of the film in its posession. Retailers are also receiving notices to remove all copies of the film from stock shelves and turn them over to Federal officials. The reports have industry insiders bewildered and outraged.

TRON is a science fiction film that takes place within a computer's circuits. Protagonist Kevin Flynn is pulled into the computer via laser by the malevolent Master Control Program. However, official concern reportedly centers around a portion of the movie's live-action sequence which was filmed at Shiva, a nuclear fusion research facility created at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Constructed in 1977 for research into generating fusion energy, Shiva used a battery of enormous lasers to smash tiny pellets of deuterium and tritium. It was hoped the resulting compression and shockwave would illustrate how to trigger fusion in the materials.

The facility was dismantled in 1981 after experiments were completed and its successor, Shiva/Nova, was built. However, as a government funded nuclear research program, it is subject to comprehensive national security guidelines, and it is this point that seems to have gotten the film into trouble.

"They said the [Shiva] scenes contained sensitive nuclear information," said a Disney employee tasked with locating copies of the film in the studio's archives. "I mean, the film's been out for 25 years. All of a sudden, there's something wrong with it? It's silly."

The film is reportedly being sequestered via a National Security Letter, a result of the PATRIOT Act that permits Homeland Security to demand information and records without judicial oversight. The PATRIOT Act provides harsh criminal penalties for failing to comply with the letter, or even for disclosing to anyone that such a letter was received.

No Disney employee was willing to comment on record, as they fear Federal prosecution if they do so. Video retailers in receipt of the letter, however, were more forthcoming. Many see the request as patently ridiculous, and are refusing to take it seriously. "I only have three copies, but they expect me to just hand over my stock?" said Jim Steinert, a video store owner in Van Nuys, CA. Steinert's copy of the letter demands, "any and all copies, in any and all recording formats," of the film. The letter states the copies are merely, "being sought for review to determine possible conflicts with national security interests." The expectation among retailers is that the copies, once surrendered, will never be returned. Steinert has two DVD copies, and a rare laserdisc copy widely regarded as the finest release of the film to date, which he is especially loathe to part with. Said Steinert, "I'm in business. I don't give stuff away. If they want to pay rental fees or buy the copies outright, fine, they can have them that way."

Use of national security letters, long criticized by civil libertarians, recently came under official scrutiny when an internal audit at the FBI revealed in early March at least 26 instances where the letters were issued without proper authority, and as many as 22% of all such requests -- over 8,800 -- were not recorded at all. While archived film and videos are considered records (such as closed-circuit security video recordings), observers say using a national security letter to quarantine a movie is something new. "A close reading of the statute doesn't answer the question," said Steve Shapiro, legal director for the ACLU. "The language is ambiguous. Under certain circumstances, it could be seen as justified. However, this was clearly not intended by the measure's authors."

Neither FBI nor DHS officials would comment on the matter, citing that they do not comment on ongoing investigations or alleged breaches of national security. However, they were willing to discuss general questions concerning security surrounding nuclear research. "We are carefully reviewing disclosure procedures and criteria concerning any nuclear information that could be misused by terrorists," said FBI agent Lirpa Sloof, official bureau spokesperson in Los Angeles. "We are mindful of the current global terror situation, and are working to ensure the continued safety of American interests and lives all over the world."

Disney obtained all neccesary clearances in 1980 when the film was in production. But despite these clearances, and an interval of 25 years, Sloof says that doesn't matter. "9/11 showed us that our enemies could make unexpectedly destructive use of seemingly innocuous information and systems. With this new view, we are re-evaluating all our disclosure procedures and criteria," she said. Indeed, since 9/11, the Administration has, under its "records of concern" program, re-classified over one million records that previously were public, some for over a century.

According to a Disney employee, the imbroglio is believed to have started when the studio began preparations to digitally remaster TRON for theatrical and HD-DVD release. Disney's plans were communicated to the FBI as a matter of long-standing routine (Walt Disney himself established a close working relationship with the FBI in the 1950's). The bureau expressed concern that the improved image quality from the restored film might reveal sensitive details about US nuclear research. Disney film experts reportedly countered that anything visible in the restored version was already visible, albeit slightly blurrier, in existing DVD copies. Approximately three days later, the DHS declared the film "sensitive" and demanded its surrender.

Although the studio has been working quietly to locate all its copies, it is not yet certain if they will comply with the demand. Apparently there is sharp division within the company about how to respond. "TRON is a landmark in film history. You can't simply make it go away," said a Disney employee who's been closely following the controversy. He also observed, "It was made during the Cold War. Nuclear secrets were sensitive then, too. Did they assume the Soviets wouldn't bother watching a Jeff Bridges film?" But another Disney employee closer to the decision-making process suggested the studio may not want to jeopardize its relationship with the FBI over the film. "Although it has a very dedicated fan base, TRON has never made a lot of money for us. Each release has only generated modest revenue, and the game was essentially a flop," referring to the PC game TRON 2.0 released in 2003. He added, "From a fiscal standpoint, it won't be a significant loss to the company if we decide to let them have it."

Released in 1982, TRON featured a largely electronic musical score and is the first motion picture to extensively use computer-generated imagery. It is widely regarded among film historians as a significant landmark in the science fiction genre and in the craft of filmmaking.


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Homeland Security Classifies TRON as "Sensitive" | 40 comments (32 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
More proof of a Christofascist USia (2.00 / 2) (#1)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 01:33:53 PM EST

They're taking the cows and getting ready to sell us the milk through Halliburton...

"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
shit, ihbt (NT) (3.00 / 2) (#8)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 03:39:16 PM EST

"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
[ Parent ]
excellent (nt) (none / 1) (#17)
by kromagg on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 07:38:49 PM EST

[ Parent ]
April first isn't for a few more days. (1.50 / 2) (#3)
by MichaelCrawford on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 02:29:57 PM EST

This is a joke right?

Please tell me it's a joke!

Looking for some free songs?

yhbt (none / 1) (#5)
by testicular torsion on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 03:18:06 PM EST


"I added a significant number of  s to the end of that ascii art, making it a derivative work and therefore not pasta of any variety, no matter how delicious." - Jobst
[ Parent ]
Doh! $ (1.00 / 3) (#7)
by MichaelCrawford on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 03:19:51 PM EST

Looking for some free songs?

[ Parent ]

It's in the Fiction section... (2.00 / 3) (#13)
by GreenYoda on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 06:01:47 PM EST

...so it's most probably fiction.

[ Parent ]
fiction but (none / 1) (#23)
by rhiannon on Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 12:45:58 PM EST

the laser thing is real.

I continued to rebuff the advances... so many advances... of so many attractive women. -MC
[ Parent ]
A friend of mine worked on fusion research (3.00 / 2) (#4)
by MichaelCrawford on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 03:16:28 PM EST

At Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He was a student intern, being a physics student at UCLA.

He said the great thing about it was that, being a secure facility, he never had to work overtime - it was not allowed. Everyone had to go home at five.

Looking for some free songs?

Ehm... (none / 1) (#26)
by Canar on Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 04:43:47 PM EST

There's a difference between never having to work overtime and not being able to work overtime. Sometimes the extra cash comes in handy. Not being able to work overtime would suck, but never having to work overtime is nice.

[ Parent ]
Good thinking (none / 1) (#9)
by joto on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 03:51:43 PM EST

I can tell you that I've pondered this issue myself. In the end, I decided not to sell the movie TRON to the Soviets.

Now I have a new chance. Maybe I will sell it to the Russian mafia, or perhaps directly to some arab dictator who wants nuclear weapons.

Haha, I'm going to get filthy rich!

I like how this is posted in the fiction section (1.66 / 3) (#10)
by Kariik on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 04:19:01 PM EST

Very canny of you, very canny indeed.

To paraphrase Rev. Niemoller (2.62 / 8) (#15)
by localroger on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 06:44:51 PM EST

When they came for the Quran I said nothing, because I ain't one of those sand jockeys.

When they came for TRON I said nothing because Jeff Bridges is a dork.

When they came for Ayn Rand, there was nobody left who gave a shit to speak for me.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer

that ship has sailed. (none / 0) (#25)
by mikelist on Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 04:25:56 PM EST

none expected

[ Parent ]
You forgot the bit about (3.00 / 6) (#18)
by stuaart on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 07:40:07 PM EST

all the pathetic open sores geeks parading around with stills of that part of the film on their t-shirts, with a poorly printed ``5upp0r7 teh fr33d0mz!'' text underneath...

Linkwhore: [Hidden stories.] Baldrtainment: Corporate concubines and Baldrson: An Introspective

agree (none / 1) (#19)
by testicular torsion on Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 11:20:51 PM EST

needs an EFF spokesman too

"I added a significant number of  s to the end of that ascii art, making it a derivative work and therefore not pasta of any variety, no matter how delicious." - Jobst
[ Parent ]
WELL DONE UNITED FOOLS (none / 1) (#22)
by testicular torsion on Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 12:12:11 PM EST


"I added a significant number of  s to the end of that ascii art, making it a derivative work and therefore not pasta of any variety, no matter how delicious." - Jobst
Ayup und dey took da sequel ta Tron too! (1.50 / 10) (#24)
by Frito Cheeto on Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 02:25:15 PM EST

It wuz called New Tron und it wuz a bomb. Neutron, New Tron, get it?

You've infected reddit. (none / 1) (#27)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 04:46:23 PM EST

And made me break a year long refusal to read k5.

Well done.


People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.

Lirpa Sloof (none / 0) (#28)
by HyperMediocrity on Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 06:42:36 PM EST

2 days early.

Somebody had better update wikipedia (3.00 / 3) (#29)
by thankyougustad on Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 07:31:54 PM EST

No no thanks no
Je n'aime que le bourbon
no no thanks no
c'est une affaire de goût.

Government takeover (none / 0) (#30)
by kneser on Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 08:59:10 PM EST

This is yet another example of the government taking advantage of our countries need for a strong leader and we, like lambs to a slaughter, let them take our rights without a word.  At some point, someone has to say, no more! You will not take TRON away from us!  Revolt!  :)

Had to be done (none / 0) (#31)
by nanobug on Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 11:44:40 PM EST

Mandatory  tron guy link

i have a TRON gold edition on DVD... (none / 0) (#32)
by ZaphodB on Fri Mar 30, 2007 at 06:09:27 AM EST

... and i'm not going to turn it over. ;P ;-)

Still in stock at Amazon... (none / 0) (#33)
by Big Balls Billy on Fri Mar 30, 2007 at 09:46:05 AM EST

... itself, along with 19 used and new from Amazon sellers, so the terrorists should have no problem getting a copy. May I also recommend "War Games"?

Everything I do is blown out of proportion. - Paris Hilton

April Fools! (2.25 / 4) (#34)
by unsupported on Fri Mar 30, 2007 at 11:47:28 AM EST

Come on, the FBI agents name is Lirpa Sloof.  April Fools.... gesh, I thought you guys were smart.

Slightly OT, but... (3.00 / 3) (#35)
by Lode Runner on Sat Mar 31, 2007 at 12:14:25 AM EST

Am I the only one who figured out that "The Dude" is the way he is because of that one baaaad trip in the early '80s? You know, the one where there were chicks dressed as circuit boards and motorcycles that laid down colorful tracks that were, like, walls, man?

No need to hand over originals. (none / 1) (#36)
by darkonc on Wed Apr 04, 2007 at 05:14:44 PM EST

If you get such a request, it should be completely legal to make a copy of whatever they're asking for and send them that.

If you've got 5 copies of the film, you only have to send them one, because they're only able to requisition data with their letters, not every physical copy of something that you have.

If they're claiming the latter, then you now have an unconstitutional search-and-seizure on your hand, which should be usable to make those letters generally illegal. (yay!)
Killing a person is hard. Killing a dream is murder. : : : ($3.75 hosting)

What's next???? (none / 1) (#37)
by jmghiglieri on Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 04:32:28 PM EST

Something like this really makes you wonder what the Department of Homeland Security is going to go after next.  "War Games" just because it shows the layout of the inside of N.O.R.A.D.?????

about tron (none / 0) (#39)
by Evandream on Tue May 08, 2007 at 05:32:47 AM EST

Tron was initially unsuccessful, only grossing approximately double its budget in the USA ($33,000,000). For example, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars and described the film as "a dazzling movie from Walt Disney in which computers have been used to make themselves romantic and glamorous. Here's a technological sound-and-light show that is sensational and brainy, stylish, and fun. However, near the end of his review he noted (in a positive tone) that "This is an almost wholly technological movie. Although it's populated by actors who are engaging (Bridges, Cindy Morgan) or sinister (Warner), it is not really a movie about human nature. Like Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back, but much more so, this movie is a machine to dazzle and delight us.
Evan Dreamz, Web-programmer of India Viagra Inc.

Byte detected (none / 0) (#40)
by b1t r0t on Sat May 26, 2007 at 11:00:45 AM EST



-- Indymedia: the fanfiction.net of journalism.

good luck for you (none / 1) (#41)
by luhua on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 11:14:25 AM EST

thank you webmaster for a good blog and good post. i am reading all
Greetings. Thanks for very interesting article.Keep up the good work.

Homeland Security Classifies TRON as "Sensitive" | 40 comments (32 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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