Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Monday, December 15, 2008

We Must All Learn Not to Spitzer Against the Wind

Lambert points out the opportunities inherent in the NSA's "Stellar Wind" program wherein they suck up all the data on the internets and look for possible terrorist activity using keywords.

Of course, sometimes the keywords include names of people making life a little difficult for the Company. In these cases, the NSA views it as a National Security matter to forward possibly incriminating data randomly gathered (one is certain) to the FBI.

Lambert has been running around with his hair on fire for several years now about this kind of thing, and so is able to come to some sound conclusions amidst the hysterics:

...Let's imagine -- implausible as it may seem -- a ruling class that isn't particularly concerned about obeying the law, is greatly concerned with getting away clean as The Big Shitpile implodes, and has come into possession of an extremely valuable intelligence source.

And let's further assume that, at the very highest levels, politics, government, finance, and intelligence are all seamlessly merged into a single group dynamic. Sort of like a polymorphically perverse Village High School where the Kool Kidz all know who's fucking who, and with what, but don't tell anyone else. Of course, in this scenario, you'd have to assume that crazy things happen like former heads of the CIA become President, or investment bankers become heads of the Treasury (and vice versa), or the talking heads on the teebee are all paid by the Pentagon. Or the President flies to Omaha to meet with the country's biggest billionaire*** on the very day of 9/11 itself. Or corporations and the government have merged. Or that they all go to the same parties.

So, third, wouldn't Our Betters use "Stellar Wind" to their advantage? You know they would. That's not foil; that's common sense.

Try walking a few steps in ruling class loafers (or stilettos). Think about what "Stellar Wind" means in terms of information and leverage. It means access to massive amounts of transactional data and, through record linkage, access to all email and phone conversations about the transactions.

1. Think of the opportunities for arbitrage. If you've got "Stellar Wind" data, you'd know what the market was going to do before it did it. It would be like playing poker while looking directly into your competitor's hand.

2. Think of the opportunities for blackmail. Just as we have to ask ourselves how many Madoffs there are, we should also ask ourselves how many Spitzers there are. We know that the Village is full of every kind of oddity -- not that there's anything wrong with (most of) that -- and it all has to be there in "Stellar Wind." It's like the "world is flat" version of oppo.

3. Think of the opportunities for scoping the Big Shitpile. Everybody's wringing their hands because the Big Shitpile is so complicated that nobody can unravel it. But "structured finance" is designed to be complicated, because, at least in many cases, it's designed to conceal fraud; think of the thousands of shell companies created by Enron, for example. But isn't it also the case that most con games are, at their heart, very simple? If that is true, than the data to prove it is in "Stellar Wind" somewhere -- because "Stellar Wind" hoovered up everything.

"Stellar Wind" was totally and massively abused. Spitzer isn't even the tip of the iceberg. Believe it. It's what these guys do...

I won't even begin to try to reproduce all the links in that quote, much less in the extensive post it came from. Needless to say, it's pretty interesting, and quite likely correct.

And I remember when Lambert used to accuse me of tinfoil hattery...

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