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Thursday, October 24, 2013

If Larry Ellison Were Head of the NSA and Testifying About German Chancellor Merkel

I'd like to take another flight of fancy, and imagine Larry Ellison as head of the NSA, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee. I suspect Larry would take a scene out of the movie Clear and Present Danger. If you'll remember, the president's advisors were telling him to distance himself from a big campaign contributor who turned out to be a drug smuggler and was killed on his boat, along with his family. Jack Ryan advised that when the press asked the president if he and this newly discovered criminal were friends, to say, “No, we were good friends.” If asked if they were good friends, the response should be “No, we were lifelong friends.” Ryan’s point was simple:  “Give the press no place to go.” I don't believe Larry would give the press, or the United States Senate, any place to go.

SENATOR: Mr. Ellison, as you know the Wall Street Journal reported on October 24th (see story here) that the German Government had summoned our ambassador to discuss allegations that the U.S. was monitoring Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone. Is there merit in these allegations?

ELLISON: Yes.

SENATOR: I beg your pardon…did you answer in the affirmative?

ELLISON: Yes Senator, I answered in the affirmative.

SENATOR: [gasping and stuttering are omitted from this transcript] Mister Chairman, I suggest we immediately close this hearing to the public and clear the room of reporters.

ELLISON: [before the committee chairman had a chance to rule] Not so fast on that ruling. It should be no secret that the NSA does extensive monitoring of all communications worldwide. This includes cellphone and email traffic. Our monitoring is totally automated, however, and we don't have an army of digital "peeping Tom" voyeurs listening in on private conversations. Our systems index keywords against which our evolving Artificial Intelligence, or A.I., technology looks for patterns.

SENATOR: When you say "extensive monitoring" of communications…

ELLISON: [interrupting] Senator, we get pretty much all of it.

[The chairman had to gavel down the uproar in the gallery]

SENATOR: All of it? You're referring to email?

ELLISON: No Senator, I'm referring to every email and every cellphone call made on the planet, along with facial recognition from every public and private surveillance camera.

SENATOR: [explicative deleted], Joseph and Mary. Does this include French President Francois Hollande, too?

ELLISON: Yes sir.

SENATOR: I…just…don't know what to say.

ELLISON: I can assure you we have no interest in, hypothetically, the French President's conversations with his mistresses. If, however, several keywords from his and other conversations around the world suggest an impending clear and present danger to the United States or its citizens, these will be correlated into a threat assessment document which is then forwarded to the Director of Central Intelligence, or DCI, the head of Homeland Security, and to the President's National Security Advisor. Our A.I. systems bypass a good deal of bureaucracy, thereby protecting the privacy and personal lives of heads of state around the world.

SENATOR: But…but…you just invaded the French President's privacy by implying he had mistresses.

ELLISON: I never said such a thing. It was a hypothetical example. [Ellison takes a moment to look at a message on his cellphone]. By the way, Senator, your own mistress just texted you that she's maxed out her credit card in a department store and needs…[the CSPAN feed was cut just after the Senator leapt over the divider at Mr. Ellison and before Larry could say, "Just joking, Senator."].

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Implementation suggestions for THE MORGAN DOCTRINE are most welcome. What are the "Got'chas!"? What questions would some future Cyber Privateering Czar have to answer about this in a Senate confirmation hearing?