Saturday, August 24, 2013

The NSA Is Beyond My Ability To Satirize It

Awhile back, I wrote a completely ridiculous blog post in which US intelligence chief James Clapper used the power of his office to answer a Craigslist "Missed Connection" ad and stalk a woman.

Ridiculous, right? Because it would never, ever happen. Even though we all realize that our spy agencies have clearly started to target US citizens as if we were in some kind of terrorist organization, and even though Clapper himself has been caught lying to Congress about the extent of the surveillance... the idea of intelligence officers using their access to chase booty sounds ill-informed and immature. It sounds like something a blogger would write, for chrissake.

Only it's not. This is from the Wall Street Journal:

National Security Agency officers on several occasions have channeled their agency’s enormous eavesdropping power to spy on love interests, U.S. officials said. The practice isn’t frequent — one official estimated a handful of cases in the last decade — but it’s common enough to garner its own spycraft label: LOVEINT.

They're a small number, right? Good. Also people supposedly got caught and punished:

The LOVEINT violations involved overseas communications, officials said, such as spying on a partner or spouse. In each instance, the employee was punished either with an administrative action or termination. Most of the incidents, officials said, were self-reported. Such admissions can arise, for example, when an employee takes a polygraph tests as part of a renewal of a security clearance.

Of course, we're taking everyone's word for it. All the details are classified. It's not like anyone from the press can check on these reassurances. And that, after all, is the point. As we talk about how to treat leakers in the wake of the Manning case we need to remember that this government is becoming simultaneously better at peering into every detail of our lives and more secretive about what it shows us.

As for me personally, I am getting scared to make fun of this stuff. The craziest nonsense I write is starting to come true.


  1. This makes me think of Kant's categorical imperative: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.

    As the NSA becomes more invasive, stores more massive databases, and simultaneously empowers more of its employees to access and analyze that data, it loses control of its own processes. It becomes a kind of self-justifying, continuously expanding, infinitely convoluted Rube Goldberg machine. It is inevitable that parts will start flying off.

    The whole concept of coherently analyzing the data and maintaining its secrecy becomes less of a possibility as the whole mess expands.

  2. The NSA is beyond your ability to satirize, and the upcoming war in Syria seems well on its way to catching up with you...

    Man. That's depressing.


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