from the work-for-the-nation's-most-hated-employer! dept
I'm not sure what the NSA recruiters were expecting when they made a recruiting trip to the University of Wisconsin, but I'm sure the following wasn't it. Maybe they thought they wouldn't be challenged. The sort of students looking to work with the NSA would presumably have had a healthy deference to authority drilled into them since an early age. Maybe they thought that any challenges could be waved away with a simple refusal for "security reasons." Maybe they thought the attending instructor would attempt to moderate the discussion.
None of that happened.
The student who transcribed the recording of the recruiters' visit thought there might be a bit more discussion about current events, and how Snowden's actions had affected recruiting and the agency itself. Instead, more time was spent trying to paint the NSA employees as a fun-loving bunch who spy all day before heading out to blow off steam getting drunk, wearing costumes and singing karaoke. (I am not making this up.)
One of the recruiters discussed how they tend to socialize after work, dressing up in costumes and getting drunk (referenced below). I can imagine that also exerts a lot of social pressure and works as a kind of social closure from which it would be difficult to escape.Yes, NSA agents are human beings and will relax like other humans do once off the clock. There's nothing wrong with that, but the recruiters seemed unwilling to be dragged into a discussion of the actual "job," and the repercussions of the work they do. Instead of meeting the questions head on, they both made the rather poor decision to play word games with linguistic students.
Here are few of the highlights.
Student A (female): I have a lifestyle question that you seem to be selling. It sounds more like acolonial expedition. You know the “globe is our playground” is the words you used, the phrasing that you used and you seem to be saying that you can do your work. You can analyze said documents for your so-called customers but then you can go and get drunk and dress up and have fun without thinking of the repercussions of the info you’re analyzing has on the rest of the world. I also want to know what are the qualifications that one needs to become a whistleblower because that sounds like a much more interesting job. And I think the Edward Snowdens and the Bradley Mannings and Julian Assanges of the world will prevail ultimately.
NSA_M: I’m not sure what the –...
Me: The question here is do you actually think about the ramifications of the work that you do, which is deeply problematic, or do you just dress up in costumes and get drunk?
NSA_M: We take it very seriously that when we give info to our policy makers that we do give it to them in the right context so that they can make the best decision with the best info available.…
Student B: Is that what Clapper was doing when he perjured himself in front of Congress? Was he giving accurate information when he said we do not collect any intelligence on the US citizens that it’s only occasionally unintentionally or was he perjuring himself when he made a statement before Congress under oath that he later declared to be erroneous or
at least, untruthfulthe least truthful answer? How do you feel personally having a boss whose comfortable perjuring himself in front of Congress?
NSA_F: Our director is not general Clapper.
Student B: General Alexander also lied in front of Congress.
NSA_F: I don’t know about that.
Student B: Probably because access to the Guardian is restricted on the NSA’s computers. I am sure they don’t encourage people like you to actually think about these things.
Me: Right, but you’re here recruiting so you’re selling the organization. I mean I’m less interested in what your specialized role is within in the NSA. I don’t care. The fact is you’re here presenting a public face for the NSA and you’re trying to sell the organization to people that are as young as high schoolers and trying to tell us that this is an attractive option in a context in which we clearly know that the NSA has been telling us complete lies. So, I’m wondering is that a qualification? [ref. to earlier question: "So, this is a job for liars?"]Who knows what song you have to belt out to shake off something like this, but whatever it was, I'm sure recruiters M and F were at least a half-dozens sheets to the wind when they did it. It's tough to find a fiery, angst-unloading track written from the perspective of The Man, so perhaps they settled for a quiet duet of Radiohead's "Fitter, Happier," a song most normal people don't find aspirational.
NSA_F: I don’t believe the NSA is telling complete lies. And I do believe that you know, people can, you can read a lot of different things that are portrayed as fact and that doesn’t make them fact just because they’re in newspapers.