The first-ever independent audit of whistleblower retaliation in US spy agencies was looking bad for the agencies, so it was shut down

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Power can take a lot of different forms: financial, cultural, political, military, sexual… But as fungible as these forms may be, I think they are all limited by the same kind of “angle of repose” that limits how high you can pile gravel or sand or oranges or bricks.

(Intelligence agencies like to treat power like bricks or Legos, and routinely stack it into sheer walls and even overhangs. But human beings aren’t milled to the same tolerances as those other materials…)


The amount of resources available to intelligence agencies is so vast, though. It may not be that institutions have a different measurement of power versus individuals when you consider all of the ways they can exert influence, in addition to the force of said influence.

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This is exactly why the angle of repose seems to me a useful concept. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got an ounce of material or a ton of material, it will still pile up the same way. (yeah, I know, granularity matters, and if physics people can just assume a perfectly spherical body of uniform density, so can I)


Snowden, part deux, here we come!

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