Friday, June 7, 2013

I polished up the handle so carefullee...


Incidentally, does anybody want to know why it is that the NSA can be collecting metadata on everybody's phone calls for the last seven years but when the Department of Justice wants the same information on 20 AP reporters over a two-month period they have to go to the AP with a warrant and ask for it?
H.M.S. Pinafore. Image from Leo Weekly, Louisville.
I imagine it's because they have a much better chance of getting what they want in a format they can use. Maybe the DOJ isn't even allowed to talk to NSA, but at least they probably just don't know how to, like FBI and CIA. And would rather not try, because they hate each other. Also, the NSA's information will turn out to be fantastically flawed.

Listen, every time you open up the GoogleBooks database you find an idiotic metadata mistake: like listing vol. 1567 of the US Congressional Edition, 1870, as being published in the year 1567, and the 1968 Handbook of Labor Statistics in 1600 (it's actually Bulletin no. 1600), so that if you do an n-gram search for the frequency of the word "expenditure" it shows these astonishing little leaps in the late 16th century, based entirely on bad coding. That's not the NSA, that's Google. Do you seriously think 10,000 government servants working in conditions of absolute secrecy can't do a worse job than Google, in all its glory?

Because if you give a government agency a worthwhile task to do in the open, they can do great things—really!—but if it is stupid, wasteful, and done in secret, they're going to make it worse. This is an ineluctable rule of fat government, and it's why the war departments are always the worst-run institutions in a given country, because they are where the mission managers congregate to suck up after one another and plan their promotions, from polishing up that handle (on the Big Front Door) to "writing" a revised manual of counterinsurgency strategy.

Putting it coarsely: If our national security establishment ever manages to build itself a dick of what it regards as the requisite size, will it be able to avoid stepping on it? I think not.
Image via HLN TV.
Update September 29:

The NSA is indeed not allowed to share data with FBI, CIA, or the National Counterterrorism Center. The proof is that they did it, apparently by mistake, allowing 250 analysts access to it between 2006 and 2009 when "the problem had been fixed". From a story of September 11 (!) at International Business Times.

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