Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Snowden Prophecy, 1991

My father, preparing to move, has been sending me boxes of old papers. Today's prescient find: a nonfiction story I wrote for Michael Lesy's literary journalism class at Hampshire College in 1991. 1991--23 years ago, 22 years before Edward Snowden's revelations.

The prescience isn't mine but that of a college friend I'll call "Kyle." Kyle, Lorraine, Steve, and I had driven several hours north to what we thought was going to be a sizable drug deal, several pounds of pot that'd transform our lives. But it didn't work out that way.
"I don't like this," Kyle said, lighting another cigarette. "The FBI have aerial surveillance. They could be watching us right now, waiting for us to buy the pot so they can bust us." 
"Christ," I said, "why would they care?" 
"Because," Kyle said with complete seriousness, "it's a war on drugs. They can track down anybody. The CIA stole this software that tracks dissidents. They can use it to keep tabs on anybody, anywhere." 
"That's ridiculous. How can they track you on a computer if you don't use a computer?" I asked. 
"You don't have to use a computer! Wherever you go you leave traces. Phone conversations, bank transactions, receipts; they have access to all the video cameras filming you when you go into a store! You can't exist in this society without them knowing. If you're a dissident, they'll find you anywhere." 
"Shut up," Steve said.
Kyle smoked a lot of weed, ate a lot of acid and read a lot of Philip K. Dick. I didn't believe him that day, or awhile later when he tried to describe something called "the web." When he withdrew from college to deal with some mental health issues, I thought the verdict was in: just crazy talk, all of it.

Sorry, Kyle. You saw it coming.