The highest executive leaders in today’s world posses information we as citizens do not know. Although this may be information we do not wish to know, much of it could easily change the way we view the world around us. The film Enemy of the State (1998) brings to life the reality of the powers inside our own government. It displays the power these agencies have and their willingness to use those powers. The technology they possess is the power that gives these groups the capability of entering into anyone’s life, destroying them at their own will.
We as citizens can instantly become innocent bystanders in situations we know nothing about. The film brings to reality the likeliness of a high powered government agency corrupting and destroying our lives for something we didn’t know was happening. A brief contact with someone you never even knew could set off a chain of reactions, engaging you in a situation you are unaware of at the time, while having the government breathing right down your back. Before we can understand how quickly our lives can be taken out of our control, we must first understand the technology that is being used by the government.
Imagine a group who knows everything about your life, a group that can find personal information about yourself with ease. Imagine being under their surveillance every second of the day, enabling them to track your position in mere seconds. Imagine a system so advanced, your bank accounts and credit cards can be depleted without your notice. Imagine a world where they can hear and record your every word. This is a world where others can destroy your life; this is the world you live in today. This is a world where we are no longer citizens of the country, but rather citizens of the government.
After all, the government has acquired enough power to shape and run the world as they see fit. We do not control the truth around us; we are merely fish in the sea. Though the level of equipment found in the film Enemy of the State is hard to find, it’s very real. To the citizens of the government, it is the future of technology. Yet, to a high profiled government agency such as the National Security Agency, it’s the technology of today. The NSA is a government agency that protects the United States in many ways.
The film states that in 1980, the NSA used underground computers at Fort Meade in which it monitored phone calls for trigger words like “bomb,” “president” and “Allah. ” If any of these words were heard, the computer would record the phone call, and archive it for further surveillance. This is similar to the technology being used in the film, yet as Brill (Ex-American spy) states, “That was 20 years ago, can you imagine what they have now? ” If a film can accurately portray the NSA of 20 years ago, one can only begin to imagine the amount of technological advances that have been made since that time.
The advanced technology we will use in tomorrow’s world is the technology the NSA uses today. The incredible technology one sees in the film is far from unrealistic. The micro-transmitter beacons that appear in the movie are most likely used by the NSA, yet in a more advanced form. The film indicates that these high tech tracers can be placed on an object nearly unnoticed, and a 3 dimensional position of the object can be relayed to a computer up to 1000 meters away. This type of equipment is already accessible to public display, making it old equipment to the NSA.
Another advance piece of equipment that appears in the film is spy satellites. These are satellites located in space that are capable of looking straight down on earth at great magnifications. This allows its operator to be able to read a license plate off of a car anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds. Even though this technology appears in the film, one would probably consider it non-existence to the real world. Yet, Microsoft offers a free web site that allows you to zoom in on the United States (Microsoft).
Thought it is not a real time image, it has the capability of finding the roof top of your own house. If Microsoft gives that away for free, I believe, as the film suggests, that the NSA can read license plates in real time with spy satellites. With all of this theoretical technology, one can imagine the amount of classified technology we do not know about. The knowledge of this technology and information would be far too great for many of us to comprehend.. Now with an understanding of the technology that lurks over our everyday life, one can understand the dangers our lives are at every second.
In Enemy of the State, Roger Dean finds himself in a situation he never intended to be in, nor for a short while, does he even understand what is happening to him. The primary focus of the film stresses the cultural beliefs of our nation and its government. This cultural belief is what the film calls “the surveillance society,” a society where the government provides protection for its citizens with the use of cameras, phone taps, tracers, and other high-tech surveillance equipment. In other words, a world where nothing can go unseen or unheard in order to help protect others.
As citizens of the government, we would like to live in a world free of harm, yet the film helps us realize the reality of that ever happening. Our culture feeds off the need of feeling protected with the technology seen in the film, yet it does not want to suffer the consequences that Roger Dean did. Our society is vulnerable to espionage and treachery; we feel a need for security, yet at the same time do not want to have our privacy invaded. As a nation, we constantly contradict ourselves about what we actually want. When the nation is going through a state of emergency, we feel the need for extra surveillance to provide protection.
Yet, when everything is calm, we see the surveillance as an invasion of our freedom. This is seen in Roger Dean throughout the entire film. Roger’s wife is against the surveillance bill that is trying to be passed in the film, which politicians say is to “keep us safe from harm. ” Yet, Roger could really care less when he hears his wife complaining about the bill, and tells her not to bother taking it so seriously. When Roger’s life slowly falls apart for things he never did, he develops an agreement with his wife’s opinion, and grows a strong sense of hatred toward the surveillance bill.
Though this is not an entire society’s opinion changing, the film shows a view of the typical American family. The Dean’s are simply a mirror image of how society reacts to these situations. Though our culture cannot decide which situation it would rather depend on, our government has already done it for us. As citizens of the government, we are forced to follow the law and can only regulate main stream issues. Those that are capable of possessing the high-tech surveillance equipment are the law, or even sit above it.
If the NSA decides to use its equipment for circumstances other than to protect our nation from international spies and terrorists, we as citizens do not have to be notified. A law in our culture is only effective if there are enough people to enforce it. Those that assist in enforcing the law do not always have to follow every law because they have less people enforcing those laws against them. A cop usually won’t get pulled over for speeding because they are the ones that help enforce that law, even if they are breaking it. This same idea also applies to the NSA.
Since they are the ones that protect the nation with high-tech surveillance equipment and top secret information, they can use their abilities to track down and destroy people who have posed them individual stress or harm. In conclusion, one can see how well the film portrays the reality of the undercover world. The cultural beliefs of a high-tech surveillance society are expressed in the film, bringing to life the hidden powers of our nation. As citizens of the government, we do not posses the power to contain this type of technology, and are immediately at a loss in the real world.
Though we have control over much of our own lives, that “control” can be taken away from us very quickly. We can easily become helpless bystanders of our own lives. We no longer live by the Constitution’s preamble, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union… ” as our vow for social equality. It’s as though we now live as, “We the people of the government, in order to form a more controlling union, and establish inequality in a nation of power and greed. ” No longer do any of us have private lives, for prying eyes may be watching us at any time.