The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
Listening In
Monday, December 19th, 2005
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?  editor@nossiter.net
NEWS ITEM: President Bush acknowledged on Saturday that he had ordered the National Security Agency to conduct an electronic eavesdropping program in the United States without first obtaining warrants… the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years
New York Times

Deep in the bowels of NSA HQ at Fort Meade, Maryland, a crack team of telephone eavesdroppers is working night and day to preserve our freedoms and the American way of life.  These dedicated men and women, hand-picked from among tens of thousands of applicants, are rigorously trained and highly skilled.  After months of both coursework and fieldwork, each operator’s ears are attuned to the slightest nuance of threat, the merest hint of danger to our nation, at least as conveyed through the telephone.  Let us now eavesdrop in turn on these fine patriots, on a typical December morning of work, to better understand the vital function they perform in our nation’s defense against the forces of evil.

In a large underground room dimly lit with camera-blocking infrared light, members of the Eavesdropping Corps, E Corps, work at sophisticated computers.  Wearing super-light headphones and specially designed overalls in tasteful red, white, and blue, the advanced technology at the Corps’ disposal allows them to drop in on any cellphone, telephone, or internet VOIP conversation in the country.  The result:  complete protection against malefactors for the citizens of the U.S.  Over in the far corner, Operator 11, a veteran E Corpswoman, has been monitoring a series of critical cell phone conversations between two suspects we shall identify only as “Bill” and “Marge.”  Their exchanges appear to have reached a crisis point, and Operator 11’s excitement is palpable:

Bill:  Of course I love you Marge.  It’s been great.  But I just feel we’ve grown in different directions.  I think we need space, time to work things out.
Marge (sobbing):  But Bill, remember all the good times.  Don’t throw all that away, please Bill.  Let’s give it just one more chance.  Meet me tonight at our old favorite.  You remember it?  Where we had our first date?
Bill:  I’m sorry Marge.  It’s over.  Besides, I’m flying to Acapulco tonight – with Amy.

Operator 11 tore her headset off and banged her fist on the desk.  “That son of a bitch.  I knew he was two-timing her with Amy.  Well, I’ll fix him” she snarled.  Entering complex series of codes into her computer, Operator 11 mobilized the IRS, FBI, and the Federal Reserve.  After ten minutes of furious typing, she lifted her hands from the keyboard and smiled with satisfaction.  Within hours “Bill” would be fired from his job, have his bank account seized, his home foreclosed, his car repossessed, be subjected to a punitive IRS audit, and find his mug shot, name, and address on a national internet list of convicted child molesters.  Operator 11 congratulated herself on a job well done, and went to get a cup of coffee.

Meanwhile, in a section of the Eavesdropping Center known to the inmates as “wetwork central,” a group of operators was also showing all the signs of being in the closing stages of a long and difficult investigation.  Hooting and hollering, the operators were simultaneously listening to a top secret conversation, and urging the interlocutors on.  The latter, of course, were completely unaware of their rapt audience:

Emerald:  Ooh, don’t stop.  Keep it up, dream boy.  Oh, oh, more, more.
Andy (breathing heavily):  Oh yeah, oh yeah.  Baby!

At this critical juncture, Operator 5, one of the wetwork group and a senior member of the Corps, flipped a switch and spoke into a microphone.

“Attention Emerald and Andy.  This is the NSA.  You are in violation of interstate commerce regulations.  Please be advised that the FBI is coming – to investigate you.”

Operator 5 quickly switched off the microphone, unable to control his laughter.  “Did you get that?  FBI is coming?  Get it?”  His colleagues were unable to respond, having collapsed on the floor in paroxysms of laughter.

In another section of Eavesdropping Central, a group of operators simultaneously monitor confidential phone conversations and watch a bank of screens displaying data from the financial markets.  Here too, excitement is running high, as an important conversation reaches its logical conclusion:

Mr. “Smith” (XYZ Corp. CEO):  Y’all happy with the details now, BJ?  Can we proceed with the sale of the company tomorrow at the agreed price?
Ms. “Jones” (ABC Corp. CEO):  Every ‘i’ is dotted, every ‘t’ is crossed as far as I’m concerned, TS.  Let the sale go through!

Operator 34 rubbed his hands.  Working through the Eavesdropping Corps online brokerage account, with a few keystrokes he bought a large stake in XYZ shares, and sold short an equally large block of ABC Corporation.  The profits for the Corps were going to be astronomical, but a few keystrokes would head off any possible SEC investigation.

In a dark and distant corner of the room, a small, bespectacled operator, number 118, suddenly lifted his head from the computer screen and called out “Hey guys, I think I got something. Any linguists here?  This could be important!  These six youngsters on a party line were talking about a bomb, then they switched from English to another language.  Little help, please?”

His appeal went unheeded.  Operator 118 shrugged his shoulders and went back to work.  He was used to being ignored.  Besides, nobody in E Corps spoke anything but English anyway.

©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2005
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