THE BLOG
11/11/2013 04:12 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

The Best Spying Plan Money Can Buy

"

The C.I.A. is paying AT&T more than $10 million a year to assist with overseas counterterrorism investigations by exploiting the company's vast database of phone records, which includes Americans' international calls, according to government officials."
-- The New York Times, cover article, November 7

CIA Director John Brennan: Okay, what can you give us?

AT&T Sales Representative: Well, we can start you off with our "Anytime" plan, which gives you phone conversations we've collected from throughout the day. Or perhaps you'd prefer our "Nighttime" plan, which provides only calls recorded after sunset.

CIA: But what about calls made across time zones -- like a Nebraska mom talking to her son who's studying abroad in France? That's exactly the kind of dangerous terrorist we need to monitor.

AT&T: Then you want our "Anytime Plus" plan. It covers all daytime-to-nighttime calls, including a New Jersey guy drunk dialing his ex from a Sicilian jail.

CIA: Sounds good. Now what if we want to target specific callers? You know, like a dentist who asks Ticketron, "Can you get me four tickets to Wicked?" as code for "I want to join the Taliban right away."

AT&T: Aha, you'll need our "Friends and Family" plan. That will allow you to choose your 10 million closest friends and bug them to death -- literally!

CIA (laughing): Hey, that's a good one.

AT&T: I know, works every time. Before you leave, we have a special promotion this month in conjunction with Rupert Murdoch. it's called the "Celebrity Talk" plan, and it gives you the cell phone conversations of the top 100 stars in Hollywood!

CIA: I'll pass. But if you could replace Miley Cyrus with Angela Merkel...

AT&T: I see that you've been talking to Sprint, eh?

CIA: Sorry, it's just that they have a "World Leaders Jumbo" plan -- everything from the German chancellor to Pope Francis.

AT&T:The Pope has a phone?

CIA: No, they've got a wire in the confessional. Some of those venal sins are to die for!

AT&T: LOL, Brennan! Now, one final question: what if, in addition to phone calls, I could get you massive amounts of personal data -- family squabbles, medical problems, sexual proclivities, the most shameful perversions you can imagine.

CIA: Sorry, no thanks.

AT&T: What?! I'm talking about some stuff that is seriously compromising: petty jealousies, workplace gossip, breast enlargements, you name it. Can't all that stuff help you with your work?

CIA: Yeah, but we've already got it for free, from Facebook.