Enemies of the State is an entertaining documentary for conspiracy theorists. Expect neither truth nor insight here.
Sonia Kennebeck’s documentary has all the ingredients to be a True Crime obsession. The internet-based drama involves government surveillance, espionage, top-secret documents, and a cover-up story.
The documentary starts with Matt DeHart and his family fleeing to Canada to seek asylum. In a reenactment layered with original audio, DeHart claims that an unencrypted folder containing documents which include the FBI’s investigation into CIA’s misdeeds was dropped in “The Shell”, a dead drop server that he runs as part of Anonymous. The Shell was made to host WikiLeaks material if their site is taken down.
In the same testimony, DeHart also claims that he’s being framed for child porn to prevent these secrets from being exposed.
The documentary takes a circuitous route in unpacking this complex story. Sonia Kennebeck creates twists and turns by presenting contradicting perspectives from people involved in the case. Apart from the usual character references (family and friends), these include an Anonymous expert, an investigative reporter, a former detective, a prosecutor, and a computer crime lawyer.
Enemies of the State excels in highlighting the grey areas of DeHart’s case.
On one side you have parents who did everything they could to help their son, but whenever they seek protection or release from authorities a child porn case keeps getting dusted off to detain him.
On the other, you have public authorities from Tennesse trying to get hold of a sex criminal who groomed two minors. His parents are too far gone in a conspiracy that they’ve dedicated their lives to help him escape justice.
In one scene, the anonymous expert who works as a college professor at McGill University points out a “Consent to Assume Online Identity”. One can assume that it enables the FBI to access his web data. On the other hand, one can also say that this could be used by detectives to stage an entrapment.
While all of this is entertaining to watch, the documentary spends all its time overplaying the outrageous claims of the case. Enemies of the State alternate between conjectures from each side and make exaggerated revelations.
And what about the supposed top secret files? DeHart sent one thumb drive to someone somewhere in the UK. His lawyer believes that the other one is with the government. Ultimately no one has ever seen it. And the only one who allegedly did, which is his mom, claims that it’s about the CIA staging anthrax scares to drum up support for Bush’s “War on Terror”.
Sonia Kennebeck leaves it to the audience to decide what they should believe, but without an overarching theme, the documentary feels exploitative.
Enemies of the State ends with the most interesting fact about DeHart’s case. Today when a story is promoted enough online it will eventually gain support and becomes true, even if the information is incomplete. Unfortunately, the documentary is preoccupied with entertaining the audience, rather than exploring this timely subject.
Enemies of the State
Enemies of the State delivers more entertainment than insight, but it's enough for True Crime fans.