The NSA will likely get a gift from Sen. Mitch McConnell this week: a massive reauthorization of their metadata collection and surveillance program, codified in the PATRIOT Act. Even though the NSA’s practice of invading privacy to collect cell phone information is uniformly unpopular with both parties, and measures have been taken to reform the process and even interrupt the NSA’s authority, in pursuit of a perfect record of completion for the Senate, McConnell is bypassing objectors and shoving the bill through. It could allow the NSA to keep scanning your phone bills for evidence of your terrorist activities through 2020.
Not everyone is pleased, after all, measures were already in place to take on NSA reforms over the summer, and this bill would supercede those efforts, bipartisan or not. And while the NSA has had internal debates over whether collecting cell phone users’ data in bulk was a worthwhile practice, they’ve since switched their focus to other efforts: namely, getting kids to recycle using a vaguely menacing looking 3D animated recycling bin named, of all things, “Dunk.”
Recycling might not be the first thing people think of when they hear about the National Security Agency, but the spy agency wants to change that.
The Fort Meade, Md., institution has a new pro-recycling mascot named “Dunk” that it’s using as part of an effort to get students in Maryland schools to cut down on their trash.
In a new eight-minute video released ahead of Wednesday’s Earth Day, Dunk — a blue, anthropomorphized recycling bin — explained the NSA’s commitment to recycling. Then, it offered students a project of their own.
“To keep as much material out of local landfills as possible, NSA has operated recycling programs for decades,” Dunk says in the video, noting that the agency recycles about 13 million pounds of garbage every year.
Does the NSA really need to spend money convincing schoolchildren that their surveillance programs are environmentally friendly? Why is it the responsibility of the National Security Administration to promote recycling? Are we really that close to a Mad Max-style water shortage that would threaten the very fabric of our fair nation? And has anyone filled those same children in on what, exactly, the NSA is recycling? And who approved this expenditure? I fear we may never know, because like most things involving the NSA, the information surrounding Dunk’s introduction is scarce.
Fortunately for Dunk, however, he’s not the only animated creature in residence at the NSA. Thanks to a generous grant from the Federal government, the NSA has several characters that, as friendly neighborhood spies, aim to teach kids about the exciting world of cryptography. Decipher Dog and Crypto Cat, two of the NSA’s top animated agents, are the stars of the NSA’s CryptoKids program, where they teach students about various code-cracking methods. Dunk, of course, is not a cryptographer, and his lessons teach more “traditional” NSA methods, like sorting through someone else’s garbage.
The video urges school students to perform a “waste audit” by analyzing trash to find how much can be recycled instead of sent to a landfill. Then, they should come up with ways to reduce the amount of trash, such as using reusable plastic bottles or lunch bags.