Saturday, May 13, 2006

My first spam and the NSA phone database

The first wave of spam to hit my inbox came in the wake of the first dot com bubble.

In good faith, Company A collected my email address, and in good faith, I gave it to them in return for a service.

Times change. In a last, desperate scramble for cash, Company A sold off their email lists.

And before long, I'm getting mail from Companies B, C, D... Z who waste no time sending me offers for sex, drugs, and Nigerian fortunes. (If only the Trustees and Executors of my Nigerian would-be benefactor had bestowed the fortune on Company A, I might have been spared the offers of sex and drugs.)

Digital assets take on an afterlife of their own. Do you think that when he first worked up his light saber routine, the Star Wars Kid had any idea that one day Google would turn up more than 18 million references to him in .18 seconds?

Fast Forward. Now the NSA has the worlds largest database with trillions of records that can trace calling patterns to keep us safe from terrorists. It's anonymized (until someone chooses to do a reverse phone lookup and remove the veil).

Let's say it's all legit. Today. (Although given the Adminstration's track record for telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, that's a preposterous and irresponsible premise. But nevertheless, let's say it.)

Let's say the database has a legitimate purpose. Is that its only purpose? In the black ops favored by this administration, how can we know? Back in the day, Elliot Ness was untouchable. But this is the day of the very touchable Kyle "Dusty" Foggo.

What might Nixon have done with such a tool and a penchant for the enemies list?
This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration, Stated a bit more bluntly —how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies. (Memo from John Dean to Lawrence Higby, August 16, 1971)
For that matter, what might Cheney, Rove, and Bush do? No wonder we mustn't know. No wonder there's no judicial oversight. No wonder its all done by presidential fiat and not Congressional authorization.

The polls are already shifting on this issue.