Thursday, September 9, 2010

Spy Stories

Lately, I've been quite busy reading a book called Body of Secrets by James Bamford about the NSA. It is certainly one of the most interesting books I've ever read. Along with serious information on things such as the Vietnam War and the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, the book also has some comical moments, showing that electronic spies have a rather wry sense of humor.

"In God we trust, all others we monitor."
- Intercept operator's motto

"Yes, my continental European friends, we have spied on you. And it's true that we use computers to sort through data by using keywords.... That's right, my continental friends, we have spied on you because you bribe. Your companies' products are often more costly, less technically advanced, or both, than your American competitors'. As a result you bribe a lot. So complicit are your governments that in several European countries bribes still are tax-deductible.
When we have caught you at it, you might be interested, we haven't said a word to the U.S. companies in the competition. Instead we go to the government you're bribing and tell its officials that we don't take kindly to such corruption. They often respond by giving the most meritorious bid (sometimes American, sometimes not) all or part of the contract. This upsets you, and sometimes creates recriminations between your bribers and the other country's bribees, and this occasionally becomes a public scandal. We love it."
- CIA Director R. James Woolsey

In 1998, the NSA sent out a "Furby Alert" to its employees. Because the toys  can potentially repeat classified information that they hear, they are banned from all NSA spaces.
(Personally, I think banning Furbies would be a good idea even in places where they can't overhear governmental secrets (i.e. everywhere).)

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