Gratuitous link of the day: SpyMeSat is an iOS app that lets you know which satellites are looking at you. (No, it probably doesn't have the Evolved Enhanced CRYSTAL or Zirconic spysats, but these days your typical Indian or South Korean earth resources satellite probably has peepers on a par with the NRO's Keyhole series—we've come a long way, baby!—and that's before we get into the private sector.)
But none of this should surprise anyone.
I've been reading up on spies and their whacky goings-on for a couple of decades; they're all a bit bonkers, in a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction way. In fact, the truth is vastly stranger than anything one can get away with in fiction. From the CIA feeding LSD to an elephant, or MI5 searching for evidence that Prime Minister Harold Wilson was a Soviet mole, Mossad mistaking a Moroccan waiter for a PLO terrorist mastermind (and murdering him), or the DGSE, convinced that Greenpeace were agents of an Anglosphere Conspiracy against le Francaise, sinking the Rainbow Warrior—they're all batshit crazy, so far up their own funhouse-mirror-lined reality tunnel that they can't see daylight. Except the Soviets, of course, who were merely paranoid (for the CIA, DGSE, MI5, Mossad et al really were out to get them). And they believed James Bond movie props were real, and told the Soviet industrial complex to make them some. (Which then didn't work, because James Bond movie gadgets are just film props. But I digress.)
Indeed, as I've noted elsewhere, the dividing line between technothriller and science fiction is more of a blurry grey fogbank than a sharp line. (And the most science-fictional aspect in my Laundry Files stories isn't the extradimensional alien horrors; it's the idea that a secret government intelligence agency could actually operate as efficiently, humanely, and competently as the Laundry.)
But I digress, again.
The surrealism of the intelligence community has been snowballing out of control since the end of the Cold War took away their 1914-1990 raison d'etre. Losing the cold war let the brakes off, as they went into full-blown panic mode looking for a new mission—and new techniques in pursuit of that mission. It coincided with Moore's Law and the explosion in computing power we've seen over the past few decades. Then the War On Terror came along; a brilliant excuse for pandering to every paranoid's fantasy and claiming a vastly increased budget, because nothing is more flexible than a war on an abstraction. And these things have a bureaucratic logic of their own.
So I am currently writing a trilogy. It's a 1000-page story, to be published in three volumes: it consists of books 7-9 in a certain series that started out as a portal fantasy (for contract reasons—a rogue no-compete clause stopped it being 'out' as SF from the start), but then pivoted into paratime technothriller around the end of book 3 with the revelation of a science-fictional rather than magical premise, taking it into much more Strossian territory.
Because I get bored easily, part of the mix for Merchant Princes: The Next Generation is a dead-pan near-future cold war satire on the security-panopticon surveillance regime we seem to have blundered into. (Try to picture an organization like the CIA, tasked with protecting the USA from every possible threat in every possible parallel universe, circa 2020. Now have a Candide-like protagonist tumble haplessly down the rabbit hole, to discover she's working for a cluelessly inept multi-billion dollar bureaucracy ...)
So picture me, rubbing my hands in glee and trying to extrapolate just how much worse the security/surveillance state could be, circa 2020, in a time-line where Washington DC was attacked with stolen nukes in 2003 by narcoterrorists from another parallel universe. And I think I've got a pretty good handle on how mad our Spook Century is going to be, until I run across stuff like the NSA bugging Angela Merkel's phone, or GCHQ bugging Belgacom, the main Belgian phone company, to snoop on the European Parliament.
And their code-name for the latter piece of work? "Operation Socialist". See! The Cold War legacy marches on!
Every time I think I've maxed out the satire and rotated the dial all the way up to 11, something from the Snowden leaks surfaces and the spooks make my worst paranoid tin-foil hat ravings and confabulated satire look ploddingly mundane.
I'm used to having this problem when writing near future SF—back in 2008-9 I kept having Halting State moments as bits of the background to that novel kept coming true—but right now, well, I'm just boggling. I've got a subplot for this trilogy (no spoilers!) which I think is up there with anything reality can throw at us and which is hopefully funny, plausible, and crazy (but in an "it just might be true" kind of way). Only now, I'm getting a sick feeling in my stomach. One month before publication, there's going to be a bombshell revelation and an ancient festering spyware secret will surface, blinking in the light of day like half-mummified groundhogs (Secret Squirrel need not apply!) and my satirical thriller will be obsolete.
As obsolete as Operation Acoustic Kitty.