SECRET CODEWORDS OF THE NSA: HERCULES
woodblock print (mokuhanga)
6" x 6" (152.4 x 152.4 mm)
5 layers of color plus blind emboss on Kochi Kozo paper
H is for hercules, which is the code name for a CIA-operated terrorism database. Hercules is also a constellation, a shape usually illustrated by connecting the star-dots.
After 9/11, the Bush administration and intelligence agencies were criticized for having all the information they needed to uncover the 9/11 attacks (especially the "Bin Laden Determined to Strike" memo) but failing to "connect the dots." Their response was to collect even more dots and, in the climate of fear in the years after 9/11, we and our elected representatives let them do it, or at least let them have power to do whatever they wanted in order to keep us so-called safe. This massive data grab, revealed by Edward Snowden, has been building for a long time. I'm not sure when the Hercules database was first developed, but I found an online reference to it from the year 2000, so it pre-dates the 9/11 attacks.
Here's an article on Politico that talks about the Hercules database and yet another failure to connect the dots in 2010 after the Christmas Day Underpants Bomber incident. In the article, an official is quoted,
The volume of any database doesn't matter much. That, by itself, doesn't get you anywhere… The key is knowing what to look for, how to bring together different bits and scraps of information that—on the surface and in an ocean of data—don't appear to be connected. This is hard stuff.Hard stuff indeed. I mean, if somebody didn't draw it out for you, would you see Hercules in that cluster of stars? I wouldn't. And even now, having made this print based on the traditional mapping of the Hercules constellation, what I see is a guy trying to swat a swarm of flies with a baseball bat.
Now that I think about it, that's not a bad metaphor for what the U.S. started doing when we declared war on Terror.