It was revealed today in secret documents leaked to this reporter that the US National Security Agency (NSA) is actually a division of Claus Industries, LLC, a company synonymous with its eponymous founder and CEO, Santa Claus.
We caught up with Santa in a Starbucks located in the Clause Industries headquarters campus in an undisclosed location about 50 miles South of the North Pole. “You can’t build a secret facility exactly at the North Pole,” he told us over a Venti Grande. “It’s too well known a landmark.” Here, in the only Starbucks to serve Christmas Blend year-round, Santa spilled the beans on the NSA.
Santa is a slim, clean-shaven, athletic man with an apparent age of about 30 who favors casual clothes. Usually soft-spoken and even tempered, he bristled when questioned about his appearance. “C’mon people! I travel through the troposphere at supersonic speeds in a convertible, with the top down. The beard? The outfit that makes me look like a bright red Michelin Man? It’s an environment suit. It’s worth all that though, because that’s one sweet ride and the view is awe inspiring. Ask Felix Baumgartner. I bet nobody gives him any shit about his environment suit.”
By the time our third round of coffee was served, Santa warmed up to the topic of the NSA. Years ago, as world population rose beyond Santa’s ability to personally keep track of all of us, he first subcontracted, then eventually built his own surveillance teams. Over the last decade, dedicated Claus Industries surveillance teams have been deployed to every country around the globe, all of them posing as government spy agencies. The NSA is the United States division of Santa’s surveillance network.
According to Santa, he conceived of the idea when he realized that no contemporary government holds their spy agencies accountable to their heads of state or under their law. The United States is, of course, no exception. When he selected three democratic countries in which to put his theory to the test, none of the governments involved realized that their new spy agencies were not actually legitimate governmental entities.
After these successful trials, Santa directed Claus Industries to deploy surveillance teams to the rest of the world, including the team in the United States which readers now know as the National Security Agency. Although the NSA’s association with Claus Industries was initially kept secret, Santa claims that the US government is well aware and cooperating fully with Claus Industries in a joint operational arrangement. Anticipating that our readers would be skeptical of such a claim, Santa provided us with corroborating NSA wiretap recordings. The following is a partial transcript of the summit meeting between John Boehner and the Leader of the Free World during which they deduced the truth about the NSA.
Boehner: “I thought you guys were funding them.”
Koch: “No. We thought you were funding them.”
Claus Industries spokesperson Ernie Keebler (no relation to the muffin mogul of the same name) has issued a press release asking people to “please just calm down about the surveillance, we only use it for the purpose of assigning gifts.” The press release goes on to assure the public that, although Santa knows every word you speak, type, read, and even sign to a deaf friend or loved one, the information is only ever used to rank your eligibility for gifts, to accurately derive your individual preferences, to provide you with an optimal Christmas experience, to be shared with Claus Industries business partners, or to comply with legitimate government information requests.
Claus Industries also maintains a strict data destruction policy carried out under supervision of on-site external auditors. All citizen data is promptly destroyed within 24 hours or less, once the statutory retention period has expired. To assure sovereignty within each of the jurisdictions in which Claus Industries operates, that retention period is governed by local copyright law. Here in the United States, copyright protection extends to a period of life plus 70 years. Your heirs can rest assured that all your data collected by the NSA will be deleted within 24 hours of the 70th anniversary of your death, in accordance with US law.
The NSA surveillance system is designed with a number of checks and balances to ensure that the snooping capabilities and vast database are not misused, including extensive real-time auditing. Teams comprised of at least one government auditor and one corporate auditor review a sampling of all data collected, based on keyword searches. Impartiality is assured by allowing the audit teams to select any keywords without restriction and according to their fields of expertise. For example, auditors drawn from law enforcement frequently use keywords related to crime whereas auditors from the retail industry often select keywords related to consumer buying behavior. Nearly all auditors have some personal special interest and Claus Industries leverages this pool of specialized expertise by allowing individual auditors to specify their own keywords. This has greatly improved gift assignment accuracy with regard to wives, ex-girlfriends and naked celebrities, a population that had previously been underserved by Santa.
Additional checks and balances are provided by having teams in different countries validate the work done by others. Claus Industries wishes to apologize for the confusion that occurred when routine quality control activities were interpreted incorrectly as US intelligence gathering targeted at their allies. In response, Santa sent a videotaped message to heads of state around the world. In the message he assures US allies that their state secrets were not revealed when the NSA collected and reviewed their high-level and diplomatic intercepted communications. Santa explains that elite members of government often have discerning tastes and that ubiquitous surveillance is the only method currently capable of providing an optimal Christmas experience for them.
He also pointed out that the QA process is fully bi-lateral. Claus Industries QA teams in Germany and elsewhere review the data collected by the US surveillance teams. Notable among these are teams in China and Russia.
According to Santa, the good work performed by Claus Industries scientists and analysts has been completely overshadowed by the surveillance revelations. “It isn’t fair to judge us only by the NSA scandal,” Santa says. “Kringle Labs is responsible for many innovations that we all take for granted today. We’ve invented more stuff than DARPA, Xerox PARC, Bell Labs, and IBM put together.” The US federal and state government agencies are a captive market for new technologies invented by the quasi-government agency, and a large portion of their income. “Because we sell almost exclusively to government markets,” explains Claus, “we aren’t well known by ordinary consumers. Also, the products do not need to be fully debugged or even all that good in order to sell to government. This means that we can do the basic research, deploy the product to the field once it has basic functionality, and receive sufficient funding to keep Christmas solvent for the coming year. Our customers can then choose whether to refine the product and work out all the bugs which is not really our core competency. If it was, children’s toys would last at least until the following Christmas. But this creates a PR problem for us because actual consumers would never buy or use that crap so they’ve never heard of our revenue-producing division.”
Santa’s claim is no idle boast. Claus Industries technologies are pervasive in US government installations. Readers may be surprised to learn that the ubiquitous privacy enhancing technology now used by the TSA was pioneered by Kringle Labs. As implemented by Claus Industries, the elves who see you naked in the course of monitoring your naughty/nice behavior have no way to identify you personally. By the time these images are delivered to the elves who actually know who you are for purposes of assigning gifts, the display shows only a chalk outline of your body with crude representations of your genitalia drawn in with a Sharpie marker. With only minor modifications, Claus Industries was able to deploy the same system for use by the TSA in the nation’s airports. In that setting the TSA agent who deals with you personally at the checkpoint sees a body outline with objects in your pockets highlighted in red. The agents who review the full detail images are in an office away from the screening area and have no access to see the persons being screened or match them up to specific images. Due to the enhanced privacy provided by this arrangement, it is possible to use hi-definition imaging, extensive screen capture and print capabilities, and link all of this up to social media, thus greatly improving security effectiveness of the system without infringing on citizen rights.
Not everyone is comfortable with the surveillance, however. Claus Industries has come under heavy fire of late from privacy advocates concerned about data breaches. “We are extremely concerned about maintaining the privacy and integrity of your data,” Santa assured us. “To that end we are teaming up with experts from private industry, beginning with the web security teams at Adobe and Sony.” Noting the high-profile breaches at these companies, we asked Santa whether there wasn’t anyone else he’d rather collaborate with. “Absolutely not!” he replied adamantly. “Both of these companies have the first-hand experience we need to properly secure our platform. Sony in particular took it up the ass repeatedly, over and over, by a seemingly endless succession of hackers, impacting millions upon millions of their users. Someone who understands security at that scale is critical in our line of work. As soon as they finish up at healthcare.gov, the Adobe and Sony teams are coming straight to Claus Industries.”
In a separate initiative designed to address privacy concerns, Claus Industries has also engaged consultants from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) to design a new opt-out system. “Many citizens who do not celebrate Christmas have asked why their data is collected,” Santa explained. “To address these concerns we will be updating our platform to give people around the world, for the first time ever, the opportunity to opt out of Claus data collection. Our advisers assure me that global economy absolutely depends on the participation of as many people as possible and that the overwhelming majority of people are happy to waive their privacy in return for gifts. Or coupons. Well, gifts and coupons really. According to extensive research conducted by the ANA, DMA and the DAA, any token incentive, even one the individual doesn’t want or won’t use, is sufficient to overcome almost any privacy objection.”
In reality, there remain a stubborn few who refuse to trade their privacy for a $0.25 discount on toothpaste, even during Double Coupon Day. “There are only a few fringe tin-foil-hat types who actually wish to opt out, but we respect their choice. That’s why we are building the opt-out system. Privacy nuts, conspiracy theorists and non-Christians alike will all be able to set their privacy preferences by registering and completing an extensive demographic questionnaire designed to eliminate fraud in the opt-out system. This is the exact same system we invented and first sold to the Republicans to eliminate rampant voter fraud among women, youth, retirees, minorities and other non-Republican constituents. As long as people fill out the survey honestly, and submit recent colonoscopy results, we are confident the rate of fraud in the opt-out system will be virtually zero. The good news for everyone else is that if you wish to remain in the program you need take no action. Everyone is opted-in by default.”
Although no details were provided, Santa said that users wishing to opt out would soon have a variety of methods to do so. All of the engineering, packaging, documentation and even training for the call center has reportedly been completed. Santa promises to deploy the new opt-out feature next month in those countries where it has already passed legal review, in plenty of time for individuals wishing to do so to opt out before Christmas. Unfortunately, the US will not be among the countries able to opt out this holiday season.
Citizens in the US should be able to opt-out within two years, according to the current timetable. Kringle Labs lobbyists on Capitol Hill assure Santa that support for assisted suicide on medical grounds here in the US continues to grow. Once it becomes available to the terminally ill, Santa believes it will be very easy to extend the benefit to the “terminally hopeless,” a phrase he says is a Claus Industries insider term referring to those who do not celebrate Christmas. He hopes to have a variety of convenient opt-out choices for US citizens available in time for Christmas 2015 or, with luck, in time for the 2015 Cold and Flu season.
We wondered what percentage of people Santa believes possess the technical skill to distinguish browser cookies from actual cookies. “There are a few people who understand the basics,” he told us. “But when they started using things like Adblock Plus, Ghostery and NoScript we were forced to design new technologies. Users are starting to catch on to those as well.”
“By the way,” Santa continued with a twinkle in his eye, “some people out there really need to know that ‘Flash Cookies’ are not what you think they are. Put your clothes back on please or you’re going on the naughty list. Except for Channing Tatum. If you read this Channing, Mrs. Claus would love it if you left an autographed copy of Magic Mike under the tree, and I’d consider it a personal favor. That’s the best way I know of to make sure there’s a present waiting for me when I get home from a long night of delivering gifts.”
In person, Santa lives up to his genial and jovial image unless you broach the topic of Edward Snowden. Santa has personally appealed to President Obama requesting immunity for Edward Snowden. “Of course he’s one of ours. C’mon. SNOWden? Hello. Duh! Considering that the NSA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Claus Industries and not an actual US government agency, it should be obvious that his ‘leak’ is just an elaborate prank that got out of hand and not treason. Of course Google and Microsoft cooperated with me! Of course I can decrypt all Internet communications at the backbone! This shouldn’t be news. I’m Santa, dammit! You can’t have your gifts and encryption too. Think about it.”
He sees you when you’re sleeping.
He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been good or bad,
so be good for goodness sake.
Regular readers will remember that the ‘going dark problem‘ is the US industrial crypto-complex term describing the increasing proportion of Internet traffic that cannot be monitored due to encryption. “Those idiots in the FBI appropriated our term for their own program. Let me clear this up once and for all,” Santa explained with a sigh. “No surveillance means sucky Christmas gifts. Sucky Christmas gifts means waning enthusiasm for the holiday. Waning enthusiasm means people stop putting up Christmas lights. No lights, no Christmas. ‘Going dark’ literally means going dark! It’s as simple at that. Any other usage of the term is an FBI semantics invented to manipulate public perception and help them get funding approval from rich, old, white, guys who don’t have a clue about how technology works and still think you reboot your laptop by turning it upside-down and shaking it. Christmas is synonymous with surveillance and elaborate lighting.”
Regarding the Snowden NSA leak, Santa bears no ill will toward Mr. Snowden. “We tend to go a bit overboard in our celebrations. At Ed’s birthday party I snuck up from behind and pied him in the face. I’m sure he was simply trying to one-up me. He’s a good guy. If he thought for a minute that his prank would have exposed our whole Christmas operation I’m sure he would not have done it. But now that he has, people should just get over it in the spirit of Christmas.”
We asked Santa whether he thought Edward Snowden deserved any punishment. “Of course he does,” Santa told us. “But not by the US government. It’s an internal matter. We’ve assured President Obama that if he sees fit to grant immunity and return Mr. Snowden to us, we will bring him up before a Claus Industries review board, fully represented by our best litigators by the way, before convicting him and imposing the ultimate sentence against him.”
Stunned at this revelation we asked Santa whether we had heard him correctly. Would he really kill Edward Snowden for leaking the NSA documents? “Kill him? I plan to give him a lump of coal for Christmas, you moron. This is the Arctic Circle, not Texas.” At this point, Santa produced a tablet computer of some kind, asked for the correct spelling of my name and took some notes. I pressed him further about privacy.
“Privacy is a myth,” he assured me. “Get over it. A very few of you a had privacy for about a year after I had a nervous breakdown and decided it was all too much,” he explains. “I tried scaling back on the monitoring but that led to prohibition of alcohol in the US, a huge rise in organized crime, murders, and all sorts of bad things. Then I had another brief lapse in the 1970s that opened the door to the war on drugs which has caused incalculable suffering, another massive rise in organized crime, even more murders, and unchecked accumulation of abusive government power. With unchecked privacy comes unchecked danger. Lots and lots of danger. Privacy leads to rape, murder and pedophilia whereas panoptical surveillance leads to happy and safe citizens. Sure I know your most intimate secrets. That’s why you are safe. That’s the spirit of Christmas.”
“Problem is, while our system was briefly down in the ’70s, world population started growing so fast we were unable to keep up. The war on drugs has raged beyond even control for decades. The only way for us to restore order is to use the technology that has recently become available to dig even deeper into your lives with a degree of granularity never before possible. All this monitoring everyone is so afraid of? People think it’s just about Christmas but it’s not. The NSA is my gift to the people of the United States 24x7x365, and 24x7x366 on leap years. Ubiquitous surveillance is the only thing keeping violence in check. And if it catches a terrorist or two now and then, is that such a bad thing?”
As we parted I asked Santa the one thing he most wants our readers to know. “They need to know I’m the Good Guy here,” he replied earnestly. “I’m Santa. If you can’t trust me, who can you trust?”