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Frontline: United States of Secrets

14 customer reviews

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Product Description

How the government came to spy on millions of Americans.
In United States of Secrets, FRONTLINE goes behind the headlines to reveal the dramatic inside story of how the U.S. government came to monitor and collect the communications of millions of people around the world including ordinary Americans and the lengths they went to trying to hide the massive surveillance program from the public.
In Part One, filmmaker Michael Kirk goes inside Washington and the National Security Agency, piecing together the secret history of the unprecedented surveillance program that began in the wake of September 11 and continues today even after the revelations of its existence by Edward Snowden.
In Part Two, veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Martin Smith continues the story, exploring the secret relationship between Silicon Valley and the National Security Agency, and investigating how the government and tech companies have worked together to gather and warehouse your data.


3 out of 4 stars
"United States of Secrets effectively raises the question of whether the program was worth the cost in lost trust and privacy violations. Recommended." --Video Librarian

Product Details

  • Actors: .
  • Directors: .
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS (DIRECT)
  • DVD Release Date: July 29, 2014
  • Run Time: 180 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,333 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 16, 2014
As part of its FRONTLINE series, PBS ran the first part of a two-part documentary, "The United States of Secrets," in the 9:00 - 11:00 p.m. (EDT) time slot on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. (The final hour will air a week later, on Tuesday, May 20, at nine.) Amazon is currently taking pre-orders for these three hours on DVD, and I only wish it could be released sooner. The show examines the transformation of the National Security Agency (NSA) from an agency sworn not to eavesdrop on the domestic affairs of American citizens to one of near total surveillance, particularly in the wake of the 9/11/2001 bombings, much of which is only now beginning to be fully understood following Edward Snowden's release of large amounts of NSA records in 2012.

In my opinion, what I saw represents high-order documentary-making and even if the subject matter were not so inherently absorbing, it would well be worth watching. As one might expect, "The United States of Secrets" includes interviews with Luke Harding and Glenn Greenwald, authors of the two best-selling books on the Edward Snowden affair, who each reveal how the Edward Snowden whistleblowing took place and touch on its vast significance. Also in the documentary are interviews with many of the people in high-level positions at the NSA when it made the lurch from an agency that had been forbidden to eavesdrop on domestic conversations to a component of a total-security state ordered to do just that. This documentary is not given to polemic, but it is hard not to conclude that a concerted tangle of sleazy ethics, half-truths, full lies, bypassed civil rights and ignored judicial heritage all figured into this scenario.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By southasia on December 7, 2014
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Interesting. I watched it about 8 times. What the film fails to cover (and perhaps this is coming) is not so much the how, but the what and the why. What type of information are we looking for, and why we need to look inward. These questions (at least in my mind) still remain unanswered.
The excuse given is that we have unknown enemies within the US. The reality may well be that this idea of internal enemies is not only morally incorrect, but also completely overblown. Of particular note was the ISP provider who was given a letter, and NSL, to permit the government to see a certain e-mail on his server, without explanation. His attorney said that the American people would have been shocked to discover the why of this query.
I'm still waiting for Greenwald to deliver the documentation that Snowden gave him. That would offer us a much larger understanding of the things that our own government is looking at.

Here's my take on the legality of mass surveillance. Between the end of 2003 to about 2008, prior to the new law passed by our congress, all of this wiretapping/monitoring of internet traffic was done under a single order given by the FISA court. Apparently, our government lied to the judge at the time in order to obtain the permission to restart the program without the consent of the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, who had determined that the monitoring was a constitutional violation.

Snowden was castigated by so many people. However, I have to wonder about what specific knowledge he must have had at the time. It must have been something very ugly for him to do what he did. He had access to signals intelligence, human intelligence and was also a superuser, with super access to classified information. Whatever it was must have completely turned his stomach.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By NYFB [Je suis Cecil, Charlie ET Ahmed] on May 14, 2014
I never followed NSA or Snowden. One day before release of this DVD, NPR Fresh Air interviewed the film maker as well as couple of the NSA employees who appeared in the documentary. I hardly ever hear an older male cry in an interview. To say painful and disturbing was the least that I felt so I decided to watch the documentary. This NPR documentary is three hours of pure information that I have hardly ever seen in any documentary since the film maker interviews every single player in the whole story where the whole story started since 9/11. We are not talking about just journalist but everyone in the highest position of US government except the President and the Vice President of US government. Unbelievable amount of facts that informs one how the US government operates and how different government agencies interact with each other under the two branches of the government except the Supreme Court. This documentary and the story that it covers is a much bigger story than the Watergate, much bigger and the only reason why an average US citizen probably may not be aware of the facts of the whole story - except if they were part of the story - is that the story requires the plot to be told accordingly, properly and systematically which this film maker has done superbly.

To go back to that individual who cried in the interview, the documentary exposes so many individuals who did not cry in the documentary but they certainly made me cry for their sufferings.
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