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John Soat
John Soat
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IT Confidential: Government Surveillance Is A Job Opportunity

One person's government surveillance is another person's job opportunity. If you've got the right skills, it's a seller's market.

SCENE: A windowless, nondescript office. An older man is seated at a gray, nondescript desk, making notes on a notepad. A young man stumbles into the room, confused, blinking his eyes as if adjusting to the light. YOUNG MAN: Where am I? SEATED MAN: I'll ask the questions. Are you Scott Smith, graduating senior from Ohio State University? YOUNG MAN: Yes, I am. I thought I was on my way to a job interview, but then I was blindfolded and pushed into the back of a car. It was a long ride. Who are you? SEATED MAN: We'll discuss that later. You're graduating with a combined degree in mathematics and computer science, is that correct? YOUNG MAN: Yes, it is. But I really need to know what this is all about. SEATED MAN: You're in a government facility. This is a job interview. You're graduating at the top of your class in both disciplines, with a special emphasis on data mining, is that correct? YOUNG MAN: Yes, it is. Hey, wait a minute. ... Is this the CIA? SEATED MAN: No, it's not the CIA. Your internships included programming and data management projects at the university, several state agencies, and AT&T, is that correct? YOUNG MAN: Yes, that's correct. Is this the FBI? Or the Secret Service? SEATED MAN: You're proficient in Oracle, SAS, and SPSS software, is that right? YOUNG MAN: Yes, but I prefer to write my own data-mining algorithms. Hold on--this isn't the NSA, is it? SEATED MAN: I can't answer that question. YOUNG MAN: Oh, no. Forget it. I'm not working on that telephone-records project. SEATED MAN: I have no idea what you're talking about. YOUNG MAN: What happened to the guys who were working on it before? I heard some pretty ugly rumors--anxiety, depression, eating disorders. SEATED MAN: We've had turnover in our IT department ... I mean, there are several interesting and exciting IT positions for which we're interviewing qualified candidates such as yourself. YOUNG MAN: Can you imagine a project like that? Talk about needles and haystacks! Like one huge Sudoku game. I'd rather run traffic patterns any day. Hey, can I get a Red Bull? SEATED MAN: Maybe later. YOUNG MAN: And dealing with the phone companies? Forget it. Sloppy data practices, lousy support, and endless hard-copy forms. Positively Kafkaesque. SEATED MAN: Just a couple more questions. First, would a project involving telephone records--if such a project existed, which it doesn't--present any ethical problems for you? YOUNG MAN: Me? No. Data's data, right? The challenge is in making sense of seemingly arbitrary and unrelated data sets. Contingent on salary, of course. SEATED MAN: Second, would you be willing to sign a loyalty oath? YOUNG MAN: I guess so. My last interview was with Microsoft, which asked me the same thing. You can keep your phone records, but send your industry tips to or phone 516-562-5326. "The News Show" aspires to be Kafkaesque. Watch it and you be the judge, at noon EDT every weekday at

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