Saturday, June 12, 2010

Breakout Capability

The breakout capability becomes the secret program. The crosshairs are pushed back, back, from actually carrying out an act, and into thoughtcrimes. There could be a kremlinology and parsing of arcane little motions, only the subjects would be everyone- all citizens have breakout capability to do terror, so intelligence work will focus on tinier sets of tea leaves. Less and less overt, quieter and subtler actions will be grounds for preemptive assassination, or at least grounds for highlighting you as a "person of interest."

When I thought of the phrase I was actually thinking it in the other direction: the breakout capability to do massive data mining becomes the secret program. If you can stay in the nascent stages of a project until you are .9999999 of the way to the moment when you want to act, then bring the pieces together in a flurry, law enforcement either has to act faster than you do in that .00000001, or consider tinier and more arbitrary bits of thought, writing, travel, communication or maybe aberrant behavior - creativity? - to be too potentially dangerous to be left alone.

Whoops. I digressed again, which suggests this is extremely fertile ground I have been wanting to write about for a while. The point of "the breakout capability is the secret program" from the point of view of the government is to keep their hands clean until the final moment. All the constituent actions will be deep in a nexus of plausible alternative hypotheses for why you would have done such a thing. Someone buys something online from Crate and Barrel, and passively learns/gleans that Crate and Barrel tracks date of birth. When the time comes, the Director of National Intelligence contacts Crate and Barrel and says "please help your country by handing over your database." There may be a gag order attached. Crate and Barrel helps out just like AT&T did. Now you do a join, mix in date of birth with your own table. The term may be "overlay." Use date of birth in a WHERE clause and narrow down a list of 10,000 people to three. It's surveillance on demand. Instead of Crate and Barrel, it could be the Humane Society of Minneapolis. They don't have the clout to raise any big objections even though they think it's strange.

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