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Features : Editorial Last Updated: Dec 18, 2013 - 9:13:22 AM


Listen Up!
By Dalton Williams
Dec 18, 2013 - 9:12:45 AM

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Setting: The NSA’s huge, new data collection facility in Utah. It is late on a Friday night as we zoom in on two data analysts, Travis and Griffin, and their supervisor, Samantha…

Travis: First day on the job?
Griffin: Yep.
Travis: Let me know if you have any questions or if I can help.
Griffin: Thanks, man…(after a pause)…any tips for things to look for?
Travis: Unusual chatter, certain words and phrases, the stuff they covered in training.
Griffin: Would guys with ‘al’ in their name be of interest?
Travis: We’re not supposed to profile but if you find something like that, I’ll take a look at it for you.
Griffin: Well, I may have something. Here’s an email with a list of names and over half of them are ‘al.’
Travis (sliding his chair over to Griffin’s work station): Let’s look…(typing on Griffin’s keyboard)…No, kid. Sorry. That’s the roster for a bowling league in the near northwest side of Chicago. But, keep looking.
(Samantha enters the room)
Samantha: Got any interesting web traffic for me?
Travis: Nope. Just the usual bogus stuff. Russian brides, Canadian online pharmacies, man who lost his wallet in London and wants money wired, how to control women’s minds.
Samantha: Griff, how’s the first day so far?
Griffin: Fine. Travis is showing me the ropes.
Samantha: Good. I need to go to the managers’ line dance rehearsal. Flag anything you think I should look at when I get back.
(Samantha departs the scene)
Griffin (whispers): Canadian online pharmacies are bogus?
Travis: YES! Everybody knows that…you didn’t buy something from one, did you?
Griffin (after a pause): Ah, just some pills.
Travis: What kind of pills?
Griffin: They are supposed to help you control women’s minds.
Travis: Sheesh. I’d keep quiet about that if I were you…and I suggest you find something for Samantha to look at before she gets back.
(Travis and Griffin silently glare at their monitor screens)
Travis (whistles): Oh, honey, wake up!
Griffin: Huh?
Travis (pushing a button): Listen to this.
Female voice: I’m just not sure he is going to make a long-term commitment. I mean, how much longer should I stay in this relationship?
Griffin (after a pause): Okay?
Travis: The guy’s a loser. She should dump him now.
Griffin: How do you know?
Travis: Hello! I just scanned his emails and Facebook postings. They have lots of stuff about monster truck rallies, video games, and fishing.
Griffin: That’s wrong?
Travis: Not exactly, but there are no mentions or photos of her.
Griffin: Oh…and should we do anything about this?
Travis (typing): I’m going to do her a big favor, here. I’ll send her an email and out this clown.
Griffin: A message from us?
Travis: Oh, no. Not that…(typing)…who’s her best friend…looks like it’s Rosemary…so we send an email from Rosemary…(lifting a finger for the final tap on the keyboard)…and it’s gone.  
(Samantha returns)
Samantha: Any action while I was out?
Travis: Pretty slow tonight, boss.
Griffin (slowly): This…may be something…
Samantha (peering over Griffin’s shoulder at his monitor): Speak to me, Griff.
Griffin: We’re looking at Rat’s iPhone here. These…(pointing at the screen)…these are the apps that are open…he’s playing Words with Friends with a dude who calls himself Satch.
Samantha: That’s crap. Those aren’t their real names. (Pointing) Right click that icon…there…now, this one. Okay, so we have Ken and Bill playing a word game on their phones. What’s the diagnosis?
Griffin: Well, Rat…I mean, Ken…here, has two apps open that help him spell words…(pointing)…this one called Rgaist/Gratis and this one, Descrambler.
Travis: Hey, it’s a free country.
Samantha: Not that free. Did you cross check his voter record?
Griffin: How do we do that?
Travis: I can get it, boss…(typing)…here we are…registered Republican.
Samantha: Donations?
Travis: I’m on it…Tea Party.
Samantha: Bingo! Bust him! Delete all the word finder apps from his phone, Griff…and code it so he can’t reload them. Travis will show you how. Block the Merriam Webster dictionary, too. I’m going for a smoke break. Page me if anything else pops up.
(Samantha departs)
Griffin: …(types)…hmm, this is unusual.
Travis (over his shoulder): Whatcha got?
Griffin: It’s a list of names.
Travis: What kind of list?
Griffin: Can’t tell yet, although…hey, look at that. Your name is on it.
Travis: No way!
Griffin: Way! Right here, look.
Travis (slides his chair over to Griffin’s computer screen): Let me see that…(starts tapping on Griffin’s keyboard)…looks like it’s written in a very old code…how did you find this?
Griffin: Well, I was actually trying to buy something online and…
Travis: Buy something! You know you are not supposed to do that with this equipment. You’ll get us both in trouble. What did you try to buy?
Griffin: Just a pastry…
Travis: Pastry? Like a donut?
Griffin: Oh, it’s way better that a donut. And bigger, too. It’s a kringle.
Travis: Kringle?
Griffin: Yep. They are about this big around (holds his hands about 18 inches wide) and come with all sorts of fillings, such as cinnamon, almond, cherry, and many other flavors. Cherry is my favorite.
Travis: Slow down, cowboy. So, you wanted to buy this giant donut…
Griffin: Kringle.
Travis: Okay, whatever, and so tell me what commands you entered into the system here?
Griffin: Well, I typed in the word, Kringle, and these two files popped up.
Travis: Two files?
Griffin: Yeah. Lists of names. One was much longer than the other so I first started looking at the shorter list.
Travis (pointing at the monitor): This one here?
(Griffin nods affirmatively)
Travis: Does the file have a name?
Griffin: I didn’t get that far.
Travis (typing): We should be able to get that by searching in the registers…here we go…Naughty List? The Naughty List!
Griffin: Hey, Dude, how did you get on that list?
Travis (pushing a button on the console and hollering into a microphone): Samantha. Samantha! Pease come to the station immediately! Griffin may have entered a ‘no spy zone.’
(Seconds later, the door bursts open as Samantha enters. She glares at Griffin and then peers over Travis’ shoulder, focusing on the computer screen)
Travis: Sorry, boss, but you better look at this.
Samantha (recoils, hand to her mouth)…Oh, my God! Tell me this isn’t happening on my watch. Delete that screen! Now!
(Travis types furiously as Samantha reaches for a red phone on the wall)
Samantha: Put me through to the Director. It’s an emergency! Field Agent 19 here. We have a red and green alert, sir.
Griffin: Aren’t those the colors of…
Samantha (interrupting): Stop right there, rookie! Log off your computers, boys. We’re shutting down this unit NOW! Report to Human Resources for a new assignment…oh, and forget what just took place. Understood?
Travis: Roger that, boss.
Griffin: Forget just the last part or the Facebook loser and the Words with Friends parts, too?
Samantha: All of it, pal. All of it. This never officially happened!
(Fade to black)
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