Everybody's Friend
by Henry Charles Mishkoff
page 2 of 7

The entire situation was a direct result of the launch of Project Poke, the Bureau's first foray into social media. Richard ████████, who at that time headed up the Bureau's Palo Alto office, set up a meeting with Jeremy █████, the VP of something-or-other over at Facebook. I'm sure that Richard chose me because I was always talking about how much I enjoyed using Facebook and other social media, but I told him that I was uneasy about the possibility that we might be using the technology to spy on Americans. Richard gave me his standard speech about terrorists and the World Trade Center and the Patriot Act, and he was the boss, so off we went to Facebook.

Although I didn't know it at the time, Jeremy had been recommended to Richard because, unlike most of the kiddies who were roaming the halls over at Facebook, Jeremy was an ex-Marine and, he told us, a life-long Republican. (I wouldn't have guessed that there were any Republican ex-Marines with pony tails – but this was, after all, California.) Not only didn't Jeremy have the typical lefty reservations about working with Big Brother, he actually seemed refreshingly eager to help us in any way that he could. He told us that he was sure he could come up with something, and could we come back in a week? It turned out that Richard couldn't, but I could, and that's why I found myself back in Jeremy's office at the end of ███ ███.

Jeremy was so proud of his idea that he could barely contain himself – and since he was violating a few company policies (and, in my opinion, more than a few federal laws), he hadn't been able to tell anyone about his clever plan until he laid it all out for me.

Jeremy had created a special Facebook account that was a friend of every other Facebook user. All one-point-one billion of them. It was a "secret friendship," Jeremy explained with great glee, in that I couldn't write anything to any of them, but I could read anything that anyone posted anywhere on Facebook. And because it was an "enhanced friendship," Jeremy added, almost beside himself, I could even read private messages that users sent to other users. "So if you're suspicious about some bad guy," he said – "and if you have the necessary authorization from whatever court has jurisdiction," he added with a wink – "you can find out where your bad guy's been, who he's been talking to, what kinds of plans he's been making, all that good stuff."

He gave me a quick demo – and despite my initial skepticism, I have to admit that it was pretty damn impressive. (He had what must have been a sixty-inch screen hanging on his wall, maybe bigger than that, so I didn't exactly have to look over his shoulder to follow what he was doing.) He started by picking a random user, a Stacy ████ in ██████, Florida. Stacy did not appear to be doing anything that was especially interesting, at least not from a law-enforcement perspective. But one of her friends was having an affair, and the lover was sharing some choice tidbits of their clandestine activities with a few of his buddies, but the husband was suspicious, although he was trying not to let on, but he did discuss it with a couple of his closest friends, and one of them knew a private investigator, and the investigator had a few unsavory contacts who were into gun-running, and one of those guys moved cocaine on the side, and one of the drug-dealer's compadres was a bodyguard type who went along on drug runs to make sure that everybody played nice, and the bodyguard had a bodyguard friend who mentioned that he had been in the room when a federal agent was murdered...

This all happened in the space of what was probably less than five minutes. I could barely follow what Jeremy was doing – if he hadn't been narrating as he flashed around the "metaverse," as he called it, I wouldn't have been able to follow him at all. He stopped when he stumbled across the note about the murdered agent, and I think I probably took a step back from the screen at that point, because the two sentences I read gave me enough information to recognize the incident that the bodyguard was boasting about. As you know (see my report #███), the bodyguard was admitting to being present at the murder of Special Agent ████ ██████, which was number three on our list of unsolved cases at the time. And Jeremy had solved it in less than five minutes. By accident.

When I got back to the office, I knew that the final decision about whether we were going to use this amazing tool was way above my pay grade. But I also knew that the pencil-pushers at HQ would want more information about its capabilities than I could provide from watching a five-minute demo, so I thought it would be a good idea to have someone on my staff play around with it for a few weeks.

And that's when I made the fateful decision to turn it over to Charlie Carruthers.


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