Sunday, May 07, 2006

Owe my soul to the Company store

wherein I know people who know people apparently


A few days back I had a quote from The Cobweb by Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George. Fascinating story that takes place during the run up to Gulf war 1. The plot revolves around the possibility that Saddam Hussein has secretly placed Iraqi scientists (under fake student visas) in many of the midwest agricultural colleges to develop biological weapons facilities. Very believable. Unfortunately, the only ones who seem to know what's going on are an Iowan deputy sheriff and a Washington CIA analyst who is in hot water for exceeding her assigned task.

Looking for the linked quote I came across another quote I'd forgotten about and it reminded me of a small, but odd fact. We have known two people who each had a parent employed by the CIA. One was mostly an overt, probably bureaucratic position; the other was most likely highly covert. Our friend didn't know too much--her parent had served before being married and never talked about it too much--just some interesting souvenirs from far off lands and a few stories with a lot of the details missing. Such as the complete refusal to ever travel anywhere near the old Soviet Union or the Eastern Bloc countries. At the time this was brought up in conversation the parent had been dead for a few years. Still, two CIA parents. Just remembered, if we're stretching we could name a third CIA person as we know someone who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. That's kinda cool, too. Lots of sharp knives and heavy pans...they too could kill someone.

Anyway, back to the other CIA and another quote from The Cobweb about information gathering:
"I appreciate your saying that," Betsy said. "But I know that I'll never forgive you."

Hennessey sipped his coffee and thought about that one for a while, tilting his head back and forth as he worked through some kind of internal debate. "No," he finally said, gently and almost reluctantly. "No. That's unacceptable."

"What do you mean, it's not acceptable? What you did sucks and I'll never forgive you. Accept that!"

Hennessey held up one hand. "Oh, by all means. I'll stipulate from the very beginning that I suck. A lot of my associates suck, too--or else I wouldn't bother to hire them. We all suck for a living. But what's not acceptable is for you to be high-handed and condemnatory."

Hennessey sat up straight and became coolly angry. "What the fuck do you think you've been doing the last five years, sitting at that workstation? You type in requests for information, and the information appears as if by magic. Where the fuck do you think that information comes from? You think it's all from the Encyclopedia Britannica?"

Of course not!"

"Of course not. It comes from the world, Betsy. It comes from sources who are really out there embroiled in the fly-blown streets of shitty Third World cities all over the globe. And I'm not talking about noble James Bond types, either. I'm not romanticizing this. That information is gathered in any way possible. Any way. Up to and including killing people, or sending them to their deaths. Blackmailing them. Threatening them. Buying them off. Stealing from them. Defrauding them. Preying on their weaknesses for cute boys or cute girls. You ever seen war, Betsy? I have, and I can tell you it is like a fucking universe of total moral degradation. That's the kind of environment that the information comes out of. And you sit there at the castling Building and pull it up on your screen like some kind of a fucking librarian and have no concept of how it got to be there. So don;t get high-handed and condemnatory with me. You wanted to work with the CIA. You got what you wanted. And whatever naughty things I've done to you don't even register on my moral Richter scale."

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