Dear Big Sisters and Brothers,
Thanks to Edward Snowden, your awesome phone records surveillance program is now widely known to pretty much all of us. We also know about the PRISM email and internet monitoring Hal thing you’ve got going, plus the Boundless Informant iPad app. It’s all so 21st-century it makes us pee in our pants with pride at how forward-thinking and modern this makes the United States look.
But to be honest, I think you’re still just playing around. I mean, think about it—why stop at phone records and internet crap? Why aren’t you going after more? And there is somuch more.
You certainly could get away with it. The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former NSA deputy director Cedric Leighton, all the leaders in Congress, the federal courts, our beloved President Barack “Transparen-See” Obama and his ENTIRE staff—heck, pretty much everybody in power at this moment—have all come out and said firmly how justifiable this is. (Except for one or two Republican psychos.) And the best part is,they are all in agreement! (How often does that happen?). They all agree that capturing metadata is a common-sense trade-off of “privacy” (slang for “18th-century bill of rights shit”) for security.
Let’s not mince words: Capturing metadata is the wave of our secure future.
Here’s my proposal: You’ve been collecting metadata on every phone call of every American in the United States for the last seven years, and you’ve been collecting metadata on emails and internet stuff like that, you’ve got the tools to slice and dice and analyze the crap out of all that “big data,” and it’s all legit. Right?
So, let’s get this party started. You can apply the “metadata” template to all sorts of other stuff people do, and it would all be OK because you love us so deeply. You could pretty much vacuum up metadata on anything and everything people do, basically know when they’re going to sneeze before they do, not be in violation of their rights, and give them perfect safety and security.
This gets so awesome so quickly….
Consider all the travel metadata you’re ignoring. With a little cell phone GPS abracadabra, you could capture every time someone leaves their house, how long they’re gone, where they go, and when they get back. You wouldn’t actually be traveling with them or anything intrusive like that, so it would be OK. But you would be collecting all those pregnant metadata bits about their travel habits, bits that would let you look for patterns that might indicate terrorist tendencies (e.g., multiple trips to the fertilizer wholesaler).
Or consider their buying metadata. With some creative grocery-store-rewards-card-sucking, you could get juicy metadata about all the stuff people buy—what they buy, where they buy it, when they buy it, how much they pay, whether they use coupons, whether they use cash or credit, and stuff like that. You could even capture how often people buy certain target things, such as pressure cookers. The best part is, it would be OK because you wouldn’t actually be peeking into their shopping bags. Your Security Brothers could analyze all that awesome data for patterns that might look like terrorist buying habits, such as pressure cooker + fertilizer + batteries. (Who would do that except a terrorist?)
Or consider their clothing metadata. There are so many surveillance cameras everywhere, you could snap up stills of everybody walking by everything everywhere and put it all in a clothing metadata database and run that iPad app and look for terrorist-like patterns. I mean, how many people wear jackets in Tampa, right? That would be suspicious to a third grader. Or get this: You could have your program analyze all those images for folks wearing dark jackets and baseball hats while carrying duffle bags. Who would do that? Pretty much only terrorists, that’s who. And it would be OK because you wouldn’t actually be giving out fashion advice.
See where I’m going with this? My beloved Big Sisters and Brothers, I’ve just scratched the surface. Don’t forget work metadata (see what you can get from ADP), sports-watchingmetadata (ESPN, FedEx Field), medical metadata (need I spell it out?),church/synagogue/temple/mosque metadata (possibly problematic, but doable) and all the subcategories of metadata (driving, flying, and jogging = subcategories oftravel). The possibilities are just about endless: There’s educational metadata (What heads of state study optometry? Terrorist heads of state, that’s who), shaving metadata (skinheads), movie-going metadata, gardening metadata, video-gaming metadata,online banking metadata, and (everyone’s favorite) tax-paying metadata.
Speaking of tax-paying metadata, if you have any difficulties with sources, reach out to the IRS. Those people are metadata ninjas (and they know how to put the squeeze on Winstons).
In other words, it is possible, and legal, to know with virtual certainty who’s going to blow up the next marathon. All you have to do is get enough metadata.
I’ll say it again for emphasis: You just have to go after all the metadata. Safe and legit, easy peasy.
How can you let this opportunity pass? To be perfectly honest, I’d check with Counsel before you say it’s not your duty to take my advice. To know the risk and not act? At minimum, negligence. At worst, we’re probably looking at conspiracy, or maybe even accessory to the next 9/11.
But let’s not go negative. Let’s stay positive. Can anyone say “Precrime”?
Big Sisters and Brothers, I think you know I’m right. Profiling has always gotten a bad rap, but that’s because it has never involved iPads. Now you have the power to make profiling work miracles. With enough metadata, you could profile every single person in the country—not based on their headgear or their skin color, but based on their metadata. NO ONE can argue with metadata.
Stop being metadata mesomorphs. Step up to the plate and make us secure. Profile with certainty, cast that dragnet wide, and catch all those terrorist bastards before they do any more harm.
You have the means, and you have the opportunity. All you need is the will.
Daryl J. Lucas