This six part documentary series, America’s Surveillance State, dissects the United States’ present surveillance condition. The thesis statement of the series is that privacy as we understand it is an antiquated fantasy – that we need to adjust our way of living to factor in that someone, somewhere is very likely watching our every move for one reason or another. The US Government is often attributed with being the most usual subject for leading the charge on invading its citizen’s privacy, but the film quickly points out that there is every bit as likely a chance that a corporate entity is snooping around in your digital sandbox with the intent of turning a profit on the knowledge they seek to amass.
That stated, the first installment spends a great deal of time looking at the government’s efforts. Notorious whistleblower Edward Snowden is often mentioned for having done so much to bring this issue into the public eye. A government programmer, Brad Sumrall, who worked extensively in a similar position to Snowden, is interviewed about his experience sifting through mountains of data whether it was relevant to national security or not. That is the chief debate about these agencies’ objectives – whether or not there is genuine validity in their reasoning for examining and compiling data from any source they see fit, including the average citizen. The surface justification is safety, but critics insist that is simply not the case.
Since the historic events of 9/11 realigned the US approach to homeland security, a $60 billion a year industry has come to be. 70% of that, around $42 billion annually, goes to private contractors. That spells an awful lot of private, fiscally-driven interests in maintaining this costly approach to intelligence gathering and analysis, which in turn means there is $42 billion dollars of corporate motivation to be listening in on phone calls and reading emails regardless of whether there is any actual safety-oriented purpose for doing so.
The series maintains this trajectory throughout, scrutinizing the National Security Agency (NSA) and similar entities and programs in hopes of at least posing the question of whether US citizens are better or worse off in having a watchful eye on them at all times.
Watch the full documentary now (playlist)