Garrett Knott

Your friendly neighborhood column writer

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Spying on "The Americans"

Shhh...For your eyes only, the second season of The Americans (FX), hits television screens February of 2014. Our favorite 1980's era Russian KGB spies Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) continue their infamous espionage while posing as your typical American suburban family as their two children, Henry (Keidrich Sellati) and Paige (Holly Taylor) are unsuspecting of their parents true identity. In the suburbs of Washington D.C. their new next door neighbor, FBI counter-intelligence agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) and his family move in and the Jennings' spy activities are performed right under the nose of Beeman.

        In light of the current era of whistle-blowers, the NSA, Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, the old saying comes back around; “history repeats itself.” Almost daily we hear updates on cable news about the inner workings of Assange's WikiLeaks website, the wire-tapping from the NSA, and the supposed millions of top-secret documents that Edward Snowden may have in his possession. The shared paranoia from both the NSA and what Washington had in the 1980's during the Cold War with Russia isn't that far separated.The U.S. Government is currently still waiting for Edward Snowden to come back to the States and face his day in court, while, as we see in The Americans, Philip and Elizabeth, yet unknown to be undercover KGB spies to the FBI, are blindly being sought by the government along with the whole of the KGB as seen fit by the FBI itself. Both Philip and Elizabeth are often seen in The Americans attempting to (and often succeeding in) planting bugs and retrieving highly classified information for their benefit, and ultimately for the benefit of Mother Russia.

        Does this sound familiar at all? We as a nation experienced the injustices from the Patriot Act under the reign of President George W. Bush (as some refer to it as warrant-less wire-tapping) and most currently, the NSA scandal along with the bombshells of information leaks from Snowden, Assange, and Manning. The methods of obtaining this secret information today may be a far cry from the ways seen in The Americans. In the second episode titled The Clock, Philip poses as a Swedish diplomat, and convinces Casper Weinberger's assistant, Celia Gerard in photographing his office in attempts to plant a bug. After obtaining the photos of Weinberger's office (He was the Secretary of Defense under President Reagan), Philip and Elizabeth notice a clock worthy of being bugged in one of the photos while in a darkroom. Later in the episode, Elizabeth, disguised, learns that Weinberger's office maid's son is a college student and is accidentally “tripped up” by Elizabeth while carrying an umbrella with a poisoned needle built into the tip. She strategically injects the student, causing him to become bed ridden. All of this, in efforts to have the student's mother steal Weinberger's clock from his office so that it can be bugged and the clock returned to the office in return for an antidote for the student's illness. The bugging of the clock was for obtaining audio of a visit of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Secretary of State for Defense John Nott to Weinberger.

        These antics may seem pretty old school today, even a bit James Bond-sy to the avid spy-fiction fan. Of course, the Internet machine wasn't nearly as developed as it is today for the collection of vital information from one superpower to another. Or in today's case from one superpower to one or more persons, as is the case with Assange and the gang.

        Now, more than ever, we have to be especially careful with where our personal information goes and where we decide to send it. Some may think the age-old message of “don't talk to strangers” should be heeded by more people, but I think it's more of a matter of discretion and knowing the right places to provide information. It's not hard to think that all our actions may be monitored, just check inside your alarm clock, or those ominous eyes between the bushes. Public surveillance may be one of many hot button issues we face today, but in my opinion, if we aren't engaging in anything illegal, what problem is there? The real issue would obviously be attempts on someone's private life, either in their own homes, or some type of warrant-less search.

        The Huffington Post reported on June 15, 2013about FBI agents showing up at Microsoft Corp. and demanding, with court orders, information on customers just months after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001,“The agents wanted email archives, account information, practically everything, and quickly. Engineers compiled the data, sometimes by hand, and delivered it to the government.”As it seems, even today, hardly anything has changed.

cover photo: http://showrenity.com/fx-renews-the-americans/

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