Selfies But Not the Way Most Do Them
Erasing Yourself from History

Grew Up with Super Snoops

Headed to WorkPhoto by @topgold from the back seat of a Huey.

I REMEMBER WHEN I first appreciated the term "signals" in a job title. That was in the 70s when my first cousin told me he was wiring the Oval Office.

One result of the wiring job was a conversation recorded in the Oval Office of staffers and Nixon talking about how to unravel the Watergate scandal. I attached that seven minute conversation to this blog post.

A decade after Nixon, one of my offices inside the beltway of the District of Columbia had to operate its word processor and printer inside a perspex bubble because a white van was often parked outside. The not-so-anonymous van was configured with an antenna array that the office signals technician knew could read print jobs over the air. Around the same time, a college friend started working with signals inside a formidable organisation I would later know was the National Security Agency. This was a break-through in the guy's career because he trained as a computer scientist and not as an electronics engineer. Today it makes sense because of how the NSA has leveraged Big Data.

Smoking Gun from Nixon Tapes

I think it is remarkable to consider how I was sitting in small office spaces, walking underneath special wiring in the White House, and talking to friends who set up the first computer networks that later became the infrastructure now listening to the conversations of hundreds of millions of people online, via text messaging and through phone calls.

As fast as technology has enabled us to reach higher levels of connectivity between work groups, cultures and continents, the tentacles of the NSA actually laid down listening posts to watch how we bank, where we travel, and what we share about our banal lives. As David Burnham wrote in the New York Times nearly 20 years ago, "Every day, in almost every area of culture and commerce, systems and procedures are being adopted by private companies and organizations as well as by the nation’s security leaders that make it easier for the N.S.A. to dominate American society should it ever decide such action is necessary.” [1]

Today, the United States and its allies have decided such actions are necessary. It's codified in the "War on Terror" that has a statutory foundation at least the next 17 years.

As part of this ecosystem of supersnoops, I watch job titles of very smart people I knew a lifetime ago change on LinkedIn. Some of those clever men and women--well-paid contractors--are discoverable when searching for nondescript phrases like "border security" or "Homeland" or "big data". If they're connected to me, they often cut their teeth inside the Beltway as far back as the Nixon Administration.


1. David Burnham -- "The Silent Power of the NSA" in The New York Times, March 27, 1983

2. Bernie Goldbach -- "Taxi Service for Central Security" on InsideView, February 2, 2013.

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