The leek: a satirical take
By Horace Heller Hedley, IV
The evolving story of widespread NSA surveillance on ordinary Americans has taken a surprising turn. Dozens of citizens are reporting mysterious, helpful messages from an unidentified sender, popularly dubbed “the NSAngel.” In each case, the messages have appeared without warning on the screens of users, with no earmarks of a known program, and no trace of a sender’s address. They invariably pertain to events in the recipient’s recent life, and are polite and helpful in tone. Often the mysterious sender shows knowledge that indicates extraordinary access to information. All these factors point to a rogue, do-gooder element of the NSA that has so far escaped supervisory sanction.
“Freaked me the hell out!” said Leslie Sperling, 26, of Oak Park, Illinois. “I drive home from work, and I start Fast and Furious 6 on my iPad—and out of nowhere, there’s this weird message box:
‘Hey, Leslie. I’m very concerned about that awful noise your brakes are making. Please get them checked immediately. (It could be just interference on your cell line I’m hearing, but I don’t think so!!!) Why take chances? Take care!
P.S. Don’t go to Rob’s Subaru Service just off the Eisenhower at Austin Avenue. They run a bookie joint out of the body shop and are about to be busted. Please keep that under your hat until August 3rd!!!’”
All the alleged NSAngel messages, like the one received by Sperling, apparently used surveillance-based knowledge to protect the recipient, or in some cases, a recipient’s loved one (“Ron: Don’t let your daughter hang out with Eric ever again. I’m serious!”).
Some messages betray remarkably intimate knowledge of the recipient’s life:
“Daniella: Don’t forget your 4:30 appointment! You don’t want to get charged $150 for another no-show, and you really need to talk to her about…well, you know. It’s none of my business, but your steadfast belief in Benjamin’s fidelity is very admirable, but I regret to say…misplaced. I’m just sayin’. Enjoy the sunshine!”
Some observers are skeptical that the NSAngel could possibly be a single individual. They point to an apparently encyclopedic knowledge of a wide range of topics likely to be beyond the capacity of any one person. The following three NSAngel messages are illustrative.
Commenting on a recipe emailed prior to a summer gathering:
“Oooo, sounds tasty, Raymond. But I’m afraid all that cayenne is going to overwhelm your gazpacho! The recipe lacks complimentary flavors to balance it, and that pepper will be extra aggressive in a dish served cold. I wouldn’t use more than a half-teaspoon myself. Hey, we wouldn’t want your gazpacho to be a chemical agent! JK!!! Have a great picnic!”
Breaking in on a philosophical discussion of whether an all-loving, all-knowing God exists:
“I couldn’t help but overhear, and this discussion has been fascinating! But, Vincent, perhaps ultimate truth is only accessible from a paradoxical viewpoint? Is it possible that an Ultimate Being could be both completely transcendent and perfectly immanent at the same time? I mean, perhaps each created object retains full contact with the Ground Luminosity that created it? From this standpoint, ‘omniscience’ would have a very different meaning. And I know a little bit about omniscience! Haha!!! Keep speculating, guys!”
Appearing on the computer screen of Janice Trafford, a bank manager from Modesto, California, as she tried to complete a stock purchase on Scottrade:
“Costco just isn’t a good bet right now, Janice. In fact, I would steer clear of the retail sector altogether. Have you considered something in defense, like Halliburton, or Raytheon? Now is the time. I mean, before Thursday. Friday at the latest. Have a great day!!!”
Some deficit hawks suggest expanding the NSAngel concept into a for-profit model, allowing the NSA to raise federal revenue by charging citizens for its advice and oversight.
“This could be a major deficit-buster,” said Sharon Quinn, a leading advocate of the approach.“You pay thirty, forty bucks for a monthly subscription, and your whole world is backed up, automatically! And I don’t just mean your smartphone and hard drive. So your husband insists that you never told him about a weekend trip starting tomorrow. You just connect to the NSA website, locate the phone conversation when you told him about the trip, and voila, argument’s over! Now tell me you haven’t wished for that at some point. I would predict 100 million subscribers in the first few months. Serious money—and that’s without the premium service including on-site listening devices.”