Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Life Depressingly Imitating My Art

Here’s an interesting story from the Intercept on how Robert Litt, the general counsel in the office of the Director of National Intelligence, told colleagues that Congressional support for anti-encryption legislation “could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.” More:
A senior official granted anonymity by the Post acknowledged that the law enforcement argument is “just not carrying the day.” He told the Post reporters: “People are still not persuaded this is a problem. People think we have not made the case. We do not have the perfect example where you have the dead child or a terrorist act to point to, and that’s what people seem to claim you have to have.”
And here’s Theodor Anders, Director of the NSA in my new novel The Gods Eye View, available February 2, 2016:
In the car on the way back to Fort Meade, Anders thought of the images he’d seen on CNN that morning. It was unfortunate, but on balance he believed it would be beneficial. In so many ways, a country was like a person—which made sense, after all, because a country was in the end just a collection of people. And people were always concerned about their health, and rightly so, but not always properly solicitous of it. A man might therefore visit the dentist and be warned he needed to floss more often to prevent gum disease, and the man, in the immediate aftermath of his run-in with the pick and the drill, would promise himself that this time, he would be more diligent about his dental hygiene. And he might even follow through, brushing more conscientiously, flossing more regularly, for a few days, perhaps even for a week. But inevitably, as the dentist’s warning and the discomfort induced by her instruments receded into the distance, the man would revert to laziness, complacency, denial. The simple truth was, twice a year just wasn’t enough to make the average person take better care of his teeth. And similarly, the occasional random terror attack demonstrably wasn’t enough to keep the citizenry properly vigilant. An occasional supplement might be required, and while that supplement might involve some unpleasant inherent side effects, surely those side effects were nothing compared to the actual disease they were required to protect against?
He wished the supplements weren’t necessary. He wished the country could grasp the nature of the threat, as he did, and give him without question the tools he needed to combat it. But he supposed he couldn’t blame them. They didn’t have access to the information he did, they didn’t understand just how dangerous the world was, they didn’t know what was needed to keep that danger at bay. 
Well, they knew slightly better today than they had the day before. And that was something, anyway.
Earlier in the book, Anders muses:
For a moment, Anders was irritated at all the trouble he had to go through just to confirm a single person’s location. It would be so much easier, and better, if everyone were fitted with a microchip. He’d read an article somewhere about how a dog had slipped away from its home in Pennsylvania, and how it had been discovered months later in Oregon—all because a shelter technician had read the microchip her owners had implanted in her. There might be some resistance to the notion of doing something like this to people, of course, but he imagined if it were billed as insurance against kidnapping . . . and if a high-profile kidnapping could be arranged to be foiled—a child saved from the worst depravity, its parents from bottomless horror and grief, solely because the child’s loving parents had possessed the foresight to implant a chip while the child was an infant—it wouldn’t be long before all parents would feel criminally negligent for failing to implant their children. He wondered if a law could be passed, the way there had been for car seats and bicycle helmets. But no, it probably wouldn’t even be necessary. The fear of a kidnapping coupled with a Why, why did we not have the microchip done? would be more than sufficient.
He shook off the daydream, knowing he had to work with the tools available to him today. Tomorrow was another matter.
Reality has long had a way of catching up to my fiction: pacemaker hacks, nuclear safety coverups in Japan, government kill lists, etc. But usually reality waits until after the book is published. Its getting harder for art to stay ahead of life. Given the types of stories I write, I wouldnt call that good news.


Unknown said...

Thanks for your article, Barry.

All of it too sadly true.

It's an interesting notion, that it's becoming more difficult to write out-there (bordering-on-ridiculous) schemes that some government department comes up with…

that is, schemes that haven't already been done in the 60's and 70's by the CIA, or aren't currently being deployed by them…

Perhaps they're monitoring you and stealing your ideas – could you patent them to protect humanity?

Unknown said...

Hello Barry. Just wanted to say that I have recently started on the John Rain Novels curtsey one of my friend's recommendation. I must say I have become a big fan of your writing and John Rain. I can't seem to put the books down. Currently reading Winner Take It All. Hope to see some really kickass action. Thanks for your books!