One of my top twenty movies of all time is Enemy of the State, a 1998 film starring Gene Hackman and Will Smith. If you haven’t seen it, Smith plays a normal guy (married, good job, etc.) who unwittingly gets mixed up in an NSA-ordered murder of a politician. The rest is about what happens to Smith’s life when the NSA decides it needs to rip that life to shreds.
This man, almost overnight, loses his job, his wife, access to his bank account, and is hotly pursued by law enforcement. Through satellites, cameras, and tons of cool tech, he’s tracked everywhere: nowhere seems to be safe. The film’s title is accurate: he literally is made into an Enemy of the State. If it weren’t for Gene Hackman’s character, Smith would have been jailed, or dead, or both.
Back in 1998 this was still relatively fantastical, taken seriously only by the professionally paranoid. We couldn’t have that sort of thing happen in the cradle of freedom and liberty.
Welcome to “Enemy of the State”, circa 2013:
(via the Wall Street Journal) — The National Security Agency’s monitoring of Americans includes customer records from the three major phone networks as well as emails and Web searches, and the agency also has cataloged credit-card transactions, said people familiar with the agency’s activities.
The disclosure this week of an order by a secret U.S. court for Verizon Communications Inc.’s phone records set off the latest public discussion of the program. But people familiar with the NSA’s operations said the initiative also encompasses phone-call data from AT&T Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp., records from Internet-service providers and purchase information from credit-card providers.
No need to worry, though! I mean, yeah, there’s the Fox News/Associated Press thing, and the IRS thing, and now this whole NSA-electronic-info thing. I got that. But still, it’s not like the Federal Government would ever use such information capriciously, or for purely political reasons.
I mean, it’s not like they’d charge me with some trumped-up crime and toss me in jail, just to cover their own behinds, …right?
Oh, yeah. Almost forgot about him.
Okay, so maybe they would.
We should now assume that basically EVERYTHING we do, almost EVERYWHERE, is being potentially watched, sifted, sorted, reviewed and (if we’re very, very lucky) ignored.
In addition to the Department of Justice running amok as it monitors phone records of the Administration’s “enemies” (which probably now also includes Congress), we have electronic data gathering in the form of traffic cameras, ATM cameras, domestic drones, Google Glass, and … riding the bus?
Yep, loving Statist overlords are watching us there, too. Or more precisely, they’re listening to us there:
If you aren’t experiencing a VERY healthy dose of paranoia right about now, then I fear for your cognitive skills.
Ya’ know, the Patriot Act was one of the few areas where I agreed politically with my über-liberal friends during the Bush years, since you could easily see how government could use such power to become tyrannical. And before you could say “hey, where’s the brakes on this thing???”, here we are.
When such liberal luminaries as Bob Beckel are comparing your current antics as “getting damn close” to “fascism”, you’ve probably danced over the line by a mile or twenty. Actually, that begs the question: Where IS the line?
Or an even better question: does a line even exist?
I know that we used to consider that the “line” was defined in some old, outdated piece of 18th century parchment (something called the United States “Constrifusion”, as I recall…). But since Obama and a handful of other brainy folks didn’t think it really applied anymore, I believe we’re now using ‘Gentleman’s Quarterly’, and they seem to be cool with everything, so far.
As for the huffing-and-puffing that we’ve recently seen from the New York Times and other journalistic Defenders of the State, I wouldn’t put too much stock into any of them breaking up with their boyfriend just yet. Yesterday’s Washington Post showed the rest of the “Yes We Can” Clan how to uncork a fresh bottle of editorial umbrage, without allowing any of it to splash onto King Obama’s royal loafers:
“In the hands of an unscrupulous future president, mass surveillance could be turned into a powerful weapon against democratic government.”
“…that no matter how ethical the current administration might be, it’s only a matter of time before a less law-abiding administration comes to power.”
But now? Naaaahhhh…
Liberals love to talk about all the ‘Good’ which government can do, but let’s be honest: this is exactly what governments do, eventually, which is “All That They Can, And Then Some”.
And if we want to return to some semblance of rationality, we’d better get moving. ‘Cause if we don’t change from the path we’re on, pronto, then any or all of us could become a de facto Enemy of the State, …and we won’t have Gene Hackman to bail us out.