On a remote edge of Utah’s dry and arid high desert, where temperatures often zoom past 100 degrees, hard-hatted construction workers with top-secret clearances are preparing to build what may become America’s equivalent of Jorge Luis Borges’s “Library of Babel,” a place where the collection of information is both infinite and at the same time monstrous, where the entire world’s knowledge is stored, but not a single word is understood. At a million square feet, the mammoth $2 billion structure will be one-third larger than the US Capitol and will use the same amount of energy as every house in Salt Lake City combined.
Unlike Borges’s “labyrinth of letters,” this library expects few visitors. It’s being built by the ultra-secret National Security Agency—which is primarily responsible for “signals intelligence,” the collection and analysis of various forms of communication—to house trillions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and data trails: Web searches, parking receipts, bookstore visits, and other digital “pocket litter.” Lacking adequate space and power at its city-sized Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters, the NSA is also completing work on another data archive, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome.
Just how much information will be stored in these windowless cybertemples? A clue comes from a recent report prepared by the MITRE Corporation, a Pentagon think tank. “As the sensors associated with the various surveillance missions improve,” says the report, referring to a variety of technical collection methods, “the data volumes are increasing with a projection that sensor data volume could potentially increase to the level of Yottabytes (1024 Bytes) by 2015.” Roughly equal to about a septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text, numbers beyond Yottabytes haven’t yet been named. Once vacuumed up and stored in these near-infinite “libraries,” the data are then analyzed by powerful infoweapons, supercomputers running complex algorithmic programs, to determine who among us may be—or may one day become—a terrorist. In the NSA’s world of automated surveillance on steroids, every bit has a history and every keystroke tells a story.
With a special bonus:
Unfortunately for General Douglas MacArthur, the codebreakers were able to read the communications of Spain’s ambassador to Tokyo and other diplomats, who noted that in their discussions with the general, he made clear his secret hope for all-out war with China and Russia, including the use of nuclear weapons if necessary. In a rare instance of secret NSA intercepts playing a major part in US politics, once the messages were shown to President Truman, MacArthur’s career abruptly ended.
On a related note:
General Curtis LeMay remembered correctly that the JCS had earlier concluded that atomic weapons would probably not be useful in Korea, except as part of “an overall atomic campaign against Red China.” But, if these orders were now being changed because of the entry of Chinese forces into the war, LeMay wanted the job; he told Stratemeyer that only his headquarters had the experience, technical training, and “intimate knowledge” of delivery methods. The man who had directed the firebombing of Tokyo in 1945 was again ready to proceed to the Far East to direct the attacks. (11) Washington was not worried that the Russians would respond with atomic weapons because the US possessed at least 450 bombs and the Soviets only 25.
On 9 December MacArthur said that he wanted commander’s discretion to use atomic weapons in the Korean theatre. On 24 December he submitted “a list of retardation targets” for which he required 26 atomic bombs. He also wanted four to drop on the “invasion forces” and four more for “critical concentrations of enemy air power.”
In interviews published posthumously, MacArthur said he had a plan that would have won the war in 10 days: “I would have dropped 30 or so atomic bombs . . . strung across the neck of Manchuria.” Then he would have introduced half a million Chinese Nationalist troops at the Yalu and then “spread behind us – from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea – a belt of radioactive cobalt . . . it has an active life of between 60 and 120 years. For at least 60 years there could have been no land invasion of Korea from the North.” He was certain that the Russians would have done nothing about this extreme strategy: “My plan was a cinch.” (12)
Cobalt 60 has 320 times the radioactivity of radium. One 400-ton cobalt H-bomb, historian Carroll Quigley has written, could wipe out all animal life on earth. MacArthur sounds like a warmongering lunatic, but he was not alone. Before the Sino-Korean offensive, a committee of the JCS had said that atomic bombs might be the decisive factor in cutting off a Chinese advance into Korea; initially they could be useful in “a cordon sanitaire [that] might be established by the UN in a strip in Manchuria immediately north of the Korean border.” A few months later Congressman Albert Gore, Sr. (Father of former VP and 2000 Democratic candidate Al Gore, Jr., and subsequently a strong opponent of the Vietnam war) complained that “Korea has become a meat grinder of American manhood” and suggested “something cataclysmic” to end the war: a radiation belt dividing the Korean peninsula permanently into two.
Jesus fucking christ.