NSA’s “collect it all” approach to surveillance was always about control, never about detecting terrorist plans, which they were obviously incapable of doing. In fact, had no incentive to do, because every failure resulted in more power and budget.
Even without content, metadata of phone calls, email and browsing could easily be used to find husbands and wifes with lovers, men meeting prostitutes, purchasing agents taking kickbacks, trading on insider information, and most of the other standard categories of human weakness. All this was easily tied to individual identities and combined with information from all government agencies and from data brokers who provided all of the other details from every form you had ever filled out, every time you used a credit card, visited a bank, the doctor or dentist, …
NSA merged all the information and evidence of crimes in a searchable database. If a TLA needed to influence any event, NSA’s database told them who to call and what to talk about. Long jealous of the CIA’s power, influence and wealth, the blackmail database put the NSA back on top in the ‘get it done’ consolidation of 1% power and the flow of wealth that earned.
Blackmail works for ordinary citizens in their ordinary affairs, but not for rulers.
In this world of information overload and relaxed standards of sexual morality, NSA’s blackmail database didn’t have power in determining Congressional votes or other political actions via its intended purpose. Rather, in the usual perverse behavior of complex systems, NSA’s database determined every vote by every representative and most policy actions by administrators with their willing assistance, as it enhanced their networking and so improved negotiating positions. More global optima increased the size of the pie, win-win.
The government mafia had been growing for a long time. By the turn of the 21st century, government had mastered hiding information from the public. The combination of loss of traditional reverence for Freedom and civil rights, education that slighted critical thought, complex organizations, complex data processing systems, evaluating individual work performance using irrelevant criteria and subjective measurement, personnel churn, diffused responsibility, oaths of secrecy, increasing surveillance, information overload, and harsh punishment of whistleblowers produced a combination of fear, conditioned helplessness and bystander apathy that kept very nearly everyone head down, dreaming of retirement.
As the government had grown, corruption was gradually legalized. Campaign contributions, board memberships, invitations to keynote meetings of local, state, national and international organizations, the work and expense of bundling of campaign contributions, invitations to join a family for a weekend of skiing, memberships in country clubs, clubs and salons, all were legal bribes and all provided opportunities to discuss ‘constituent issues’ off the record. Scholarships for private schools, college, international travel for a politician’s children were bribes difficult to detect. Cash in foreign bank accounts was illegal, but untraceable, as the untraceable accounts were legal. $Ts were known to be held by those banks.
By 2016, every member of Congress and nearly all of the appointed positions in the administration, most members of most state and federal courts, most civilian employees above GS-13, and nearly every military officer Colonel and above was a signed-up member of the MGC Union. That should not have been surprising. The huge number of laws, more than anyone could read in a lifetime, made it impossible to be strictly lawful, yet very easy for individuals to separate law and justice in their minds. The complexity of every part of their worlds, e.g. purchasing and paying for even something as simple and standard as thumbtacks or paper clips, required great attention, a large load on finite minds.. Then diffused responsibility, the devoutly desired result of every bureaucracy, made small violations of law easy to rationalize as a way of getting things done or to ignore as ‘that is how it is’. As a person moved into the upper reaches of the oligarchy, the size of the crimes increased, as did their subtlety, the number and complexity of the legal layers.
Being a MGCU member was easy and easy on the conscience : everyone did it, being literally completely legal was impossible, how can you know for sure?, not my responsibility.
Benefits of membership could be great. The corruption meritocracy welcomed new members with skills in playing the systems, surely the most lucrative Massively Multiplayer Online Game in the country. In 2014, the American Dream was only available for lucky nerds and aspiring criminals.
Crimes were admission tickets to the MGCU. NSA’s database enrolled the applicant, assigned them status in the MGCU according to the size and boldness of their crimes, and put them in touch with each other as needed.
Insiders wondered how Snowdon could have walked away from so much easy wealth.