Everything you say or do or watch on the internet is recorded. Every person you talk to. Every dumb picture you take and send to the cloud. Every time you flirt, every time you argue, every time you cry and complain the government is listening, analyzing, and determining. Are you a threat? Did you say something a little off? Where have you traveled? What did you buy? Are they the places and things an enemy would go or buy? Click, click, click. Pass or fail.
This is now. This is the world we live in. WIRED’s cover story this month by James Bamford about the NSA’s Utah-based spy center–a data processing and code-breaking computer facility so large it will cost $40 million dollars a year in electricity alone–details that the federal government has colluded with the telecommunications for the last decade to record, more or less, everything on the internet. It was illegal when they started, but laws have since been passed to allow it. (Including provisions shepherded in by the Obama administration; everybody’s got a dog in this hunt.)
The entire feature is a must read for every citizen. I’m not trying to be dramatic; I actually believe a strong intelligence agency is necessary in the modern age. But there’s clearly no oversight from the people of this country as to what or how this information should be used, stored, acted upon, or revealed. Our government is vacuuming up an entire nation’s culture and communication at once and we as citizens have next to no say in how, when, or why it is being done.
Sitting in a restaurant not far from NSA headquarters, the place where he spent nearly 40 years of his life, Binney held his thumb and forefinger close together. “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state,” he says.
And although I’m typically loathe to do this, here’s writer James Bamford’s kicker. The feeling of shrinking sap in my spine upon reading this is the capitulative, barren death of hope:
Yottabytes and exaflops, septillions and undecillions—the race for computing speed and data storage goes on. In his 1941 story “The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges imagined a collection of information where the entire world’s knowledge is stored but barely a single word is understood. In Bluffdale the NSA is constructing a library on a scale that even Borges might not have contemplated. And to hear the masters of the agency tell it, it’s only a matter of time until every word is illuminated.
(Photo: WIRED/Jesse Lenz)