National Intelligents

Marman + Borins, Flip To, 2012. Courtesy the artists and the Tierney Gardarin Gallery, New York.

Our Bad

In light of the ongoing Snowden leak, the National Security Agency has begun mailing apology notes to private citizens. However, since it did take the time to read your correspondence, advice may be included.

To Mr. Robert Conway:

You can’t imagine our embarrassment when, during the course of re-reviewing your emails and telephone calls, we discovered the term “Thermonuclear” Nachos was actually the title of a recipe and not a threat to our national security. Please accept our apologies.



To Ms. Trini Cansino: 

As representatives of our nation’s security team, we are writing to let you know that in keeping with our directives, we have recently accessed your electronic communications. We feel that as an American, it is your right to understand why.

Our intelligence gathering capabilities employ certain mathematical algorithms to “flag” specific words and/or phrases which may indicate behavior contrary to our national interests.

In your case, it was the use of this particular passage from an email sent on June 4, 2013: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

While these sentiments are considered foundational to the very precepts upon which this country was founded, we are sure you’ll agree that, out of context, they may be viewed as subversive and certainly counter to our government’s attempts to foil any domestic atttacks.

However, considering the use of this language is restricted to your essay for school, and because we want to be fair, we will trouble you over this instance no further.



To Mr. John Hay-Gaxton:

We here at the National Security Agency, in response to a surprising number of negative comments regarding our all inclusive surveillance program, are in the process of sending out letters of apology to any and all Americans who feel their privacy rights have been violated.

In doing so, and in our extensive research, it surprised us to discover that you have somehow been overlooked. That is, we have no record of having listened in on your telephone conversations or intercepted any of your online communications.

As the result, we must regretfully inform you that we are not in the position at this time to send you an apology. Should you feel that you have received this letter in error, please forward your email address and any home, business, and/or cell phone numbers.



To Mr. Max Schmid:

The NSA would like to offer you a formal apology for having reviewed your correspondence (both internet and telephone) for the past several years. At the time, we believed America was best protected from those who intend her harm by a vigilant national security apparatus, answering to no one. Looking back, we now see this was wrong.

As a result of our pervasive data collection, we may assure you that everyone else is not being invited to those parties and dances.

We are confident you will understand our concern for you and your fellow Americans, but we should have asked your permission first and we did not. Please accept our sincere apology.

On a side note, it is no secret of course that the substance of your emails and telephone calls has shown that you feel like a loner, an outcast, someone marginalized on the fringes of society, living a life where “everyone else is invited to parties and dances but me.”

As a result of our pervasive data collection, we may assure you that everyone else is not being invited to those parties and dances. Also, it is our sincere hope that our including you in our surveillance of most everyone else somehow mitigates those feelings you expressed about not being included. Please know that you are indeed, Mr. Schmid.



To the Republican National Committee:

We here at the National Security Agency want to assure you we are just as devoted to America’s national interests as you are. Regrettably, it has come to our attention that members of our organization have been “spying” on your communications.

The episode was been caused by a simple misunderstanding. In order to gather infinite amounts of information on an infinite number of individuals and organizations, we employ powerful software programs that alert us to particular (sometimes random) combinations of words and phrases. Once detected, these phrases are then analyzed by staff.

One phrase intercepted from your organization was “trans-vaginal ultrasound.” To the gentleman who is among our most senior analysts, this sounded like a component to an explosive device rather than an important aspect of your political platform.

We would like to reiterate our regrets and proffer our deepest apologies and well wishes in your endeavors to advance your party’s social policies.