Mike McConnell wants to track all Internet traffic

You know, to protect us!

By Farhad Manjoo
January 15, 2008 4:23AM (UTC)
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The Wall Street Journal has read next week's New Yorker and unearthed an interesting bit. This is third hand, and I haven't seen the article yet because the issue isn't out yet, but the gist is this: Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has a plan to make the Internet -- and, by extension, the country, or, if you will, the homeland -- safe for everyone. Yay!

No, this has nothing to do with protecting kids on MySpace. Instead, in a program that involves nothing more than tracking all Internet traffic in the United States, the DNI promises to fight bad guys who want to do us harm. From massive data mining will come security for all.


Hey, at least you can't accuse McConnell of being original. He predicts the plan will get a lousy reception in Congress -- his words are, "this is going to be a goat rope on the Hill" -- but if meanie senators give him a hard time, he ought to point out that the government long ago proposed this plan -- see Total Information Awareness, circa 2002 -- so, in fact, there's nothing radical about it. And after all, he might add, the government already monitors your phone calls -- so what's e-mail, too?

McConnell, though, seems to be settling on a passive-aggressive marketing strategy. "My prediction is that we're going to screw around with this until something horrendous happens," he tells the New Yorker. In other words, "Fine, don't come crying to me when Sudanese ninjas break the Internet just because you were too proud to let us read your IMs."

At least you don't have to worry that the government will spot you reading this New Yorker article on the Web. The magazine has not put the piece online.

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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