Matt Damon plays Will Hunting in the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting. Will fights the legal system, fights Harvard kids, fights his damaged psyche, and fights Sean Maguire, the psychologist (Robin Williams), who fights back. Both men win.
Will does not fight advanced mathematics. He seduces linear algebra and caresses Fourier Analysis. Will’s wizardry gains him an interview with the NSA. In this scene, Will explains why he would not work at the NSA (WARNING: strong language):
If you want to know who the NSA is, click here and read their mission statement. Apply for a job. Yes! They will know you visited their site.
Remember Edward Snowden? He was a former CIA employee who worked for an NSA contractor. Snowden blew the whistle on NSA activities by giving classified information to the The Washington Post and The Guardian. Apparently, since 9/11, the NSA has collected your internet activity, emails, and phone calls. Or at least the NSA super computers collected the data. And you thought your communications were private. Silly you! AT&T and Google thought so, too.
When I was younger, I read many of the Robert Ludlum novels. In recent years, the Bourne novels were made into movies starring Matt Damon. Obviously, I enjoy Matt Damon movies. I’ve watched The Bourne Identity at least twenty times, as well as The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. These movies are my get-away-from-the-world movies and allow me to become a trained assassin for an hour or two.
Consequently, one of my goals is to write a novel of suspense and espionage within a post-apocalyptic perspective. I know–another post-apocalyptic story. I’m one hundred pages into such an excursion, so I can’t stop now. And the internet makes research easy.
When the Edward Snowden agenda surfaced, I started thinking about my Google searches: CIA, DARPA, NSA, code breaking, nuclear winter, nuclear explosions, Stalin, Mao, North Korea, Iran, and plutonium enriching. You get the idea. And my Amazon wish list includes Guerilla Warfare by Che Guevara, On Guerrilla Warfare by Mao Tse-tung, and On War by Carl von Clausewitz. However, my list also includes The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World by the Dalai Lama. The NSA would probably ignore those two books.
After World War II, Communism was the great boogie man under the bed. The NSA was not created until 1952, so the FBI did the snooping. For Slate.com, Justin Peters wrote an intriguing article titled “The FBI’s Files on Camus and Sartre Confirm the Utter Meaninglessness of It All.” FBI analysts searched through existentialist writing to uncover the link between these writers and the dread communist monster. Sounds like a grad school final exam essay question.
The NSA is not the FBI. That may sound simplistic. The FBI primarily works on soil owned by the United States, which would include military bases and embassies around the world. The NSA is supposed to direct its energy at foreign adversaries. Then 9/11 happened.
The FBI said to the NSA, “Tag. You’re it.”
How do you collect everyone’s emails, chat, web searches, and phone conversations? If you’re the NSA, you build or buy the world’s fastest computers. My smart phone stores megabytes of pics and music, but processes the info at a relatively slow rate. Bigger computers process a gigabyte of info each second. That’s a 1 with nine 0s bits of information every second. The NSA is building a supercomputer in Utah that will process a yottabyte of information every second, nonstop. A yottabyte is a 1 with twenty-four 0s. Where’s Will Hunting when you need him to explain such elegant things.
Should you be worried?
George Orwell wrote that Big Brother is watching you. The NSA is more like that creepy uncle who is stalking you. He looks in your search engine window at night. This creepy uncle has a huge budget, plays with super computers, hires the brightest math whizzes, and employs more linguists than any company or government on the planet. Nerdsville.
You shouldn’t lose sleep over it. Do your research on space aliens and cowboys. Order the “Art of War.” Play Call of Duty online with other anarchists around the world.
Oh yeah. This post is full of words that might trigger an audit by an NSA computer. If I had used the word “Osama” in this essay, it would definitely have been tagged and processed by a linguistic analyst with a PhD in morphemes.
Have a nice day and smile. You’re being watched.
– Ramsey Mathews