Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NO SUCH AGENCY

It is funny to hear people gasp in outrage when they discuss domestic surveillance in the United States. The clock struck 13 a long time ago.

I think back, not without some fondness, on old times: RAGTIME. ThinThread. Trailblazer. Highlander. Five Eyes. ECHELON. KUKNOB. MKSEARCH. JUBILIST. HOPEFUL. We have been keeping eyes and ears on people for a long time, kids, and only the ignorant innocents think otherwise.

They gasp, of course, as they clutch their cell phones and post their outrage on Facebook. Maybe they even try to see if any friends are close by so they can commiserate — all the while ignoring the inconvenient truth of their GPS-enabled devices. Or maybe they are aware of the power in the palm of their hand, and they're simply upset the government uses its vast resources to sometimes take a dip in the information pool, and maybe fuck with some lives.

It's been this way since the good old boys at the OSS decided that the end of a world war was the perfect time to keep spying. Wild Bill Donovan's ghost still flits around the world, and idealistic young men and women are trained early to go fishing and bring back big catches. They may not even be aware of the dirty work they're doing, but hey, all in service to country, amirite?

So: a little subterfuge here, a little slipped acid there. A ginned-up controversy, a concocted back story, a few greased palms. People you may think you know do these things on a regular basis, and it's not because they're evil; it's their job, and they do it without much thought, the same way a person at McDonald's scoops and serves salted fries without contemplating the calories they're handing out.

When the idealists get older they may look back on their deeds with disgust and self-loathing, but never with fear. They know too much to be afraid of the facade the rest of the world believes is reality. They know about the mind tricks and games of distraction. They understand the Big Picture, and why these things happen. They know facts that would make their friends shiver with terror — real terror, not the imagined fears of the blind. Be glad for what you don't know.

And take a few bits of advice: stand close to people when you're outside. Try to stay to the edge of buildings so you don't cast a shadow. Keep your voice at a low, even pitch. And whatever you do, don't look up. Veritatem cognoscere.

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