Every Smile You Fake

[A partial transcript of the Judiciary Committee's National Security Agency hearings.]SENATOR: As you know, the committee is holding these hearings because of the NSA's internal audit revealing violations of the privacy of ordinary American citizens.  And obviously we take revelations like these very seriously be—NSA REPRESENTATIVE: —Because Americans have a right to be free of inappropriate government surveillance.SENATOR: —Well, yes...NSA: And because it is a "gift to your political base" and a chance to "stick it to the president."SENATOR:  Well, more the first thing you said, but...  Why does that wording sound so familiar?  Anyway.  I was discussing this subject with a colleague on the phone yesterday, and as I told him, when a government illegally violates the privacy of its citizens it is arguably the greatest betrayal—NSA:  —betrayal of all because other violations trespass on body or bank account but this one invades the sacred realm of selfhood—SENATOR:  Of self—.  Yes.  How—?  Did you know that was what I was going to—?NSA:  —and that is a sphere that must remain inviolable Hey that sounds good let me just, where's a pen, I can't find a, pause, distant barking, hang on a second that goddamn dog I'll be right back Silence.Judiciary-Committee-Room-in-the-Capitol-Building-400-x-400-dpiSENATOR:  Did you break into my email and listen to my phone conversations?NSA: No!SENATOR:  Because it seems kind of like—NSA:  —And, I mean, if we did, it was probably on accident.  That's mostly how these things happen, is by accident.SENATOR: How do you violate the privacy of thousands of people by accident?NSA:  Computers are hard.  Have you seen the latest version of Word?  Everything's all moved around.SENATOR:  Well, I haven't seen that but—NSA:  Sure you have.  You upgraded in April.SENATOR: Look, we don't want this to take all day...NSA:  No, you've got that anniversary dinner at the Four Seasons tonight.SENATOR: Aha! No, I don't—!  Oh...NSA:  Did you forget again?SENATOR:  ...No.  [Sounds of writing something down.]NSA:  Good, you wouldn't want to do that.  Not with what she got you for your birthday next month.SENATOR:  We said we weren't going big on birthdays this year!NSA:  She couldn't resist.SENATOR:  Now see, this is exactly the kind of violation I'm talking about.  In fact, it's exactly what I intended to address in my prepared remarks, which I may as well share at this time: "This was intended to be a government of, by, and for the people..."SENATOR & NSA: [in unison]  "...not a government that spies, watches, and betrays the people.  Our national bird is the eagle not because of its keen prying powers of vision but because of its ability to soar without constraint..."SENATOR:  STOP THAT NOW!NSA:  Sorry, reflex.  Please continue.SENATOR:  "The... the great seal does not depict a, a listening device, nor a, nor..."  Now, now look at him, he's still moving his lips along with me, does anyone see that?  Never mind, you ruined it!NSA:  Did you cut out the stuff about Patrick Henry?  I liked that part.SENATOR:  Enough!  It's clear you've been spying on people, including but not limited to me.  You're breaking the law and I insist that it stop![Murmuring in the crowd of observers.]SENATOR:  Quiet.  Keep it down out there.NSA:  They can't help it, Senator.  Twenty percent of the people present in the chamber today have Googled the words "impulse control" in the past six months.SENATOR:  I don't mind telling you, sir, this is the most frustrating thing I've seen in quite some time.NSA:  More frustrating than your problems with Candy Crush?SENATOR:  I defy anyone to get past level 33!  It is literally impossible!NSA:  Try using the striped ones to get some four-matches.SENATOR:  That's, that's actually a good idea... [Sound of writing something down.]  Now I suggest you start —SENATOR & NSA: [in unison] cooperating or this committee will make an example of you.SENATOR:  How... how did you know what I was going to say?  That's not anything I wrote or...  I only just now decided to say those words.NSA:  I know you so well that I not only know what you've said but what you're going to say.  It's the power of data, Senator, probabilities and matrices.  I've come to know so much, accidentally and via typos and the like, that I transcend the boundaries of self.  I am information, I am energy, I am metadata coursing through data streams with negligible mass but unimaginable power.  The members of this committee reveal themselves to me as coordinates and data points, and I tolerate you out of politeness and, yes, out of pity: because I realize you'll never know the bracing rush of being one with a heaving current of raw information.SENATOR:  Well, in that case, no further questions.NSA: In fact, only one question in the universe yet remains cloudy to me...SENATOR: And that is?NSA:  —Do you guys validate?SENATOR:  We do not.NSA:  Aw, balls![End of transcript.]