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Swordfish: A Carnivore at Waco

By James Hall
web posted June 18, 2001

The action packed cinema portrayal in 'Swordfish' has a lesson for all of us. Uri Dowbenko writes a masterful account of the movie and background. A read of his description (Operation Swordfish: How to steal a government slush fund), is a must.

John Travolta (Gabriel Shear) and Hugh Jackman (Stanley Jobson) star in Swordfish
John Travolta (Gabriel Shear) and Hugh Jackman (Stanley Jobson) star in Swordfish

More than just entertainment, the plot alludes to the consequences of government operations gone awry. The conclusions that jump off the screen displays government agencies above any law and a force unto themselves. While this is not new, nor should it surprise, how much of this depiction is pure fiction and what parts are grounded in real circumstance?

Most accounts of agency abuse are intangible and abstract in our own personal experience. When a story is spun to create a version of fact through the kaleidoscope of your imagination, you impart a message that few essays can achieve.

The reference to the FBI's Carnivore spook program is no accident. The invasion of privacy and destruction of civil liberty protections is rooted in the culture of that agency. These sins have become institutionalized and normal rules do not restrict, limit or place constraints on the missions of these agencies. This extreme version of situational ethics is unwritten policy in law enforcement. The mindset that accepts any means to attain the objective, causes any abuse to be; but a part of the cost of success.

When you strip the special effects off Swordfish, you have a simple morality play that is told in the computer age. In an earlier era you could have Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia be the central characters. What has changed in human nature? Maybe it has actually gotten worse? It would seem that Machiavelli would be the student intern today in the FBI training program.

If America has descended into a society that accepts rogue government operatives to become the establishment, why should we be amazed when the rest of the world views the elements that have control of state, as corrupt and depraved? But the pertinent underlying question is whether that is a fair reflection of the methods and objectives of that system? Too many citizens wish to avoid that query. They refuse to face even the possibility that it is conceivable that operations such as Carnivore could really be used against public interests. If law enforcement deems a threat to America, then we need to be protected! The problem is that the America that these deranged gendarmes owe their allegiance to, is one in which they are the wishful ruling masters.

Is there any wonder when a detail like Waco is bungled, and maximum force is applied to correct the blunder; that the culture of any means, whatever coercion, is acceptable? At the core of the brutal response is the behavior that we must protect our own.

To these 'Robo Cops', our own becomes the righteous, and our mission translates into defending our agency against all other considerations. The art of the cover-up, then becomes the science of the institution. The purpose of the ministers of administration adopts a concealment from accountability. Ranks close and the interest of the team, supersedes any moral tones of responsibility. How much different is this manner of conduct than that of the Swordfish crew?

At least, in their case, a demented rationalization for street justice against terrorism was presented. As deranged as that seems, the Waco tragedy consumed scores of 'collateral damage'. Just who is the sicker of the two? The training, socialization and the culture that assembled the cast of government thugs that employed undiminished savagery are pupils of Gabriel. AFT, FBI, DEA, CIA, NSA, DoJ are all alphabet soup from the same toxin cuisine. Corruption for financial self interest is understood by most. But depravity for perpetuation of power is much worse.

When you are told that the investigations were competent, complete and that justice prevailed, you might be suspect of their motives. Varied factions battle for power at any given time. But even when they feud, and are at odds with each other, they all cover their asses when the entire apparatus of deceit is at risk. The duplicity that operates as protection for the interests of the public is a treacherous fraud. Evil means, cannot justify ends of any nature. The idea that America is being preserved when nefarious methods are adopted as routine policy, borders on the absurd.

Fiction can express genuine villainous behavior in a way that true life seldom sees. The obstacle in accepting that the facts of real life are just as bad as the story, is because people seek to immunize themselves from facing up to that reality. In Waco, we have an example where the operation was worse than the screenplay. Swordfish has greed as a source for delusion. Waco had mislaid loyalty for murder, perjury and betrayal. But both have an archangel as protagonists. Gabriel seeks to destroy the terrorism that threatens our way of life, while the Lucifer of Waco attempts to obliterate that very way of life. In both cases the American public gets exactly what it deserves, as long as they base their view of their own 'Way of Life', as willing to accept corruption and deceit as its most practiced value. Face up to reality, it far exceeds the fantasy!

James Hall is the driving force behind Breaking all the Rules, a collection of his essays.

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