The New York Times has called for President Obama to grant some sort of clemency to Edward Snowden, the 30 year old computer programmer who made 2013 the year of the NSA leak. If not for Snowden it would only be those of us who see the stars and stripes as shackles and chains who believe the government is constantly up to no good at our collective expense.
Forget Al-Qaeda. The supposedly benevolent governments of the west, wrapped in their flags and promoting democracy, are more worried about their own taxpaying subjects. “Keep the money coming our way so we can keep you safe,” our overlords tell us. “The heathens want to kill you for your freedoms. It is only us in the government keeping terrorists from slitting your throat while you sleep.”
Even the leftist Slate thinks Snowden went too far. He should have only disclosed enough to create a “valuable debate, leading possibly to much-needed reforms,” writes Fred Kaplan. Snowden shined a light on intelligence gathering around the world and that has Kaplan seething, “one gasps at the megalomania and delusion in Snowden’s statements, and one can’t help but wonder if he is a dupe, a tool, or simply astonishingly naïve.”
Today’s world of spying and blaming is portrayed wonderfully in last year’s overlooked movie “Closed Circuit”. Before the opening credits have finished: Innocent citizens are tracked on cameras, a bomb explodes in a public market, a sufficiently dark-skinned suspect is apprehended, and a radio talk show host grills the Attorney General (Jim Broadbent) as to how fair it is for part of the suspect’s trail to be closed to the public. In Orwellian fashion, the Attorney General responds “Judicial process in this country will remain fair and transparent.” The movie portrays government as one step ahead of its subjects, and director John Crowley stays one step ahead of viewers who don’t pay full attention right away. The 96 minutes fly by.
Six months later the Borough market bombing suspect’s government appointed lawyer–Simon–has committed suicide. Barrister Martin Rose (Eric Bane) steps into Simon’s shoes in the highest profile murder case in British history.
Sounding right out of Franz Kafka, part of the case will not be heard publicly, because the prosecution (the state) has evidence against the suspect Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto) which not only can’t be revealed in public for security reasons, but can’t be revealed to the defendant.
Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) is appointed special advocate to represent the interests of the suspect in the closed hearing. And because government skullduggery by itself is not viewed to be interesting enough to keep viewers engaged, Simmons-Howe happens to be Rose’s ex-lover. In fact, Rose is going through a messy divorce and custody battle because of the affair, which is over.
We’re told all of this because the lawyer and the advocate are not to have any issues between them that would compromise their duties. It’s a good thing because despite a few long looks and plenty of pouting lips from Simmons-Howe, one would never know these two shared a bed or anything else.
The two are not to speak and exchange information. However, it doesn’t take long for Rose to figure out he’s being watched and the more he gets into the facts of the case the more he begins to suspect Simon didn’t kill himself. Against court rules the two ex-lovers keep each other up to speed.
The judge is convinced to question the government’s informant during the closed session. It is the hearing and immediately afterwards that are the movie’s high points. Arrogant civil servant Melissa’s (Anne-Marie Duff)) smug soliloquy in the hallway for Rose channels Col. Nathan R. Jessup’s rant at the climax of “A Few Good Men.”
“You lawyers like your fucking doubts don’t you,” Melissa says. “I need certainty to do my job. To save lives. You people. You’re the same. You want the freedom to attack me. But without me you wouldn’t have much freedom at all.”
We mere civilians must be on a need to know basis. Government bureaucrats decide what we should know and what we shouldn’t, besides dictating what’s true and what’s false. They will decide who are the good guys and who are the bad. Don’t question what they are up to, it’s all for your protection.
“There’s a certain inevitability about it,” the Attorney General calmly tells Rose over breakfast talking about the case, and how the lawyer should consider his career before pressing forward anymore. The Attorney General knows how everything will turn out and he lets the naïve barrister know he was a mere pawn on the government’s chessboard.
There is an air of resignation to the ill and evil of government by the end of “Closed Circuit” that makes the movie believable for those of us who have our doubts about government. And while screenplay writer Steven Knight doesn’t completely give up on democracy–arguing about the case in Parliament is heard at the end–the shouting doesn’t sound like freedom and fades out quickly.