Using documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the Times wrote Saturday that the NSA’s ability to spy on US internet traffic “has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T.” NSA documents praise AT&T’s “extreme willingness to help” and remind contractors visiting the company to be polite, since “This is a partnership, not a contractual relationship.” I think we can all agree that a partnership between one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies and the federal government to secretly monitor our communication is an exciting direction for America to go. As if this relationship did not smack of corporatocracy already, there’s this refusal from an AT&T spokesman to discuss any of the findings: “We don’t comment on matters of national security.” It’s subtle, but it’s the subject of today’s Close Reading.
Rand Paul, son of Ron, scourge of government overreach and champion of that species of liberty which flows naturally from being somebody’s kid, has announced his candidacy for president. He joins Ted Cruz in challenging that guy who is the son of one president and the brother of another for the nomination to run against the wife of yet another former president. The tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with blood of the same type as whoever watered it before. But although his father has drawn a paycheck as a US Representative since he was 14, “Rand Paul has been fighting big government his entire adult life.” So says his announcement page, which mentions his father exactly once. He’s his own man. All his father gave him was a ready-made constituency, a bunch of contacts in Washington—which he despises as his sworn enemy, of course—and a famous name.
Why is this orangutan wearing a knit sweater when he is already covered in orange utan hair? His mom made it, you dick. You’re at the mercy of what your parents consider important, because there are twice as many of them as you. Case in point: Vodafone announced Friday that several governments have direct access to its customers’ data, including the ability to listen to phone calls in progress. Originally, that was supposed to be something they could do only with judicial oversight, but if one of those secret rulings doesn’t work out, the government of, say, Ireland can just use its technical backdoor. I’m sure none of those foreign governments—which may include our own—would abuse their direct lines, though. In unrelated news, the government of Britain made over 500,000 requests for communications data in 2013 alone.
I don’t know about you—because what am I, the NSA?—but I worry that blanket domestic surveillance will be a problem because the federal government could use it for evil. Recent developments suggest that I may have overlooked another possibility: blanket surveillance could be a problem because the government will use it to waste vast quantities of money and time. I refer, of course, to the news that intelligence agencies are monitoring Second Life and World of Warcraft. Props to Mose for the link. The NSA, FBI and CIA believe that terrorists and other international criminals could use online multiplayer games to secretly communicate with one another and exchange resources. In fact, terrorists are most likely to use World of Warcraft to get called fags by 14 year-olds in Ohio. It’s a real misunderstanding.