Monday, April 21, 2014

Today, I played a character of a John Grisham, Vince Flynn, or Boushka novel

I did a minor road day trip today (not exactly worthy of Jack Kerouac), and made a stopover at the NSA, just East of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, slightly more than half way north to Baltimore.  Technically, it’s part of Fort Meade, where I actually played in the Armed Forces Chess Championship in 1969 and stayed in the “barracks” twice (rather nice, even then).

Something curious struck me.  First, there’s a Visitor’s Center, but the gate is closed off, so you obviously can’t go there without an “appointment’.  (I’ll check that later.)  But there is a public parking area to the west of the main group of buildings, next to the “assets”, some WWII era airplanes, an a short “Adventuring” hiking trail to the Cryptography museum. I got there too late for that.  The gate to its own parking lot was open, but the museum itself was closed.

There is a sign in the public parking lot saying that photography of the “assets” (the planes) is OK, but not of the buildings on the campus.  Well, I don’t recall that sign back in 2008, when I was there before.  The idea is absolutely ridiculous.  It’s at least 400 feet to the buildings (a baseball outfield) and there is no way a picture could pick up anything.  Just what do they think a visitor could photograph? Or maybe spy on with some microwave or radio device?  Actually, a renegade spy could bring a homemade flux gun onto the property and probably wreak some havoc for a few hundred feet, unless everything inside the buildings is protected by faraday cages (it probably is).  And no one is watching to make sure you don’t get the buildings (the newer “green” building is quite attractive) into a wideshot.
Remember, individual facts maybe unclassified by themselves, but an assemblage of them can be seen as classified.  But that old idea is getting questioned, as the Internet makes it easier for "amateurs" to connect the dots on their own. 

One other thing about gumshoeing into various past incidents – that is, unsolved crimes.  (Today, I became a John Grisham  -- or Vince Flynn -- character again, which an attorney once used to characterize me.)  Usually, the information in the press is inaccurate, and maps of the area (even Google’s) aren’t completely accurate.  Usually there are dead-end and name-changing streets, and the physical infrastructure in areas where these unseemly things have occurred is usually crumbling and poor.  Pockets of poverty are more common than we think, and drugs and gangs – in “good” neighborhoods --  are probably more common than people would ever want to know.  Not every “hit” is the result of a government conspiracy, even indirect.  But maybe some are – from foreign governments or “non state” actors.  (I won’t be more specific as to what I found out today, for a while. Amateurs do see things – “goon-prints” in social media and in the real world – that the police and even the “fibbies” – and even Edward Snowden -- miss.)  As I look back over my own life, I’m surprised at its stability. 
As a detail, one particular sight caught my eye Monday -- in a sensitive place, there was a woman with a black burqa, completely covering almost all the face.  

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