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December 18, 2013

Santa tells the NSA to ‘step off’

THE NORTH POLE — Santa Claus has formally asked the National Security Agency to immediately cease accessing his data servers, including his most sensitive data, the so-called “naughty/nice” list. The unusual request, which Mr. Claus submitted to President Barack Obama via email and announced at a tense news conference here on Wednesday, also asked the U.S. government to “step off and leave morals-based surveillance to the experts.”

The federal government’s data grab, which came to light when whistleblower Edward Snowden disclosed the NSA’s clandestine Christmas-based surveillance program, includes accessing key “metadata” about the behavior of all Americans. By analyzing the metadata, the government could then dig deeper into Mr. Claus’ proprietary technology to see you when you’re sleeping, to know when you’re awake and, ultimately, to know if you’ve been bad or good.

“For goodness sake, I’ve tried watching out,” said Mr. Claus. “I’ve tried crying. I’ve tried pouting. Nothing seems to get the NSA to cease and desist. So now I’m demanding.”

The surveillance is especially troubling to Mr. Claus because of the tremendous amount of work he’s done to compile and verify his data, he explained. “I’ve not only made the list, but I’ve checked it twice. And now they just tunnel in and download who’s been naughty or nice without a search warrant? I don’t think so!”

It’s easy to see why the lists of Santa Claus are so valuable to the U.S. government’s counter-terrorism efforts. In one fell swoop, the government could identify and categorize all of its citizens into one of two camps: naughty or nice. Those who are identified as nice could be automatically enrolled in the TSA’s airport PreCheck program, which allows fliers to go through security without removing their belts and shoes or placing their 3-ounce liquids, gels or aerosols in quart-sized clear, plastic zip-locked bags. Some analysts believe this benefit would be more valuable to many Americans than Santa Claus’ own custom of awarding little tin horns and little toy drums under his “Rooty Toot Toots and Rummy Tum Tums” program.

But it’s the “naughty” list that concerns Hermey the Elf, who heads up the North Pole Civil Liberty Union’s Center for Democracy. “This is an appalling misuse of Santa’s data sets,” he said. “And it’s an unacceptable intrusion into the lives of private citizens. What is ‘naughty’ to Santa might not be a national security risk. Just because Santa designates someone ‘naughty’ or ‘a misfit’ or ‘a nitwit,’ doesn’t mean he’s going to strap a bomb to himself and blow up a subway train or mail some ricin to some politicians or that he would be unfit to become a dentist. Wait, where was I?”

The Christmas surveillance fracas is just the latest spying scandal to come out of the NSA’s Prism program, which is responsible for secret data mining in dozens of countries across the globe, as well as U.S. technology companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft. It comes at a bad time for Santa Claus, as he and his elves are furiously gearing up for the busiest night of the year.

“I don’t know if the U.S. government is aware, but I’ve got a lot on my plate right now,” said Mr. Claus. “I’ve got elves working night and day to put toys under trees. I’ve got a lawsuit on my hands after running over Grandma. I’ve got kids peeing on me at Macy’s. Vixen’s got a bum leg and we might have to put him down. And I’m still getting over a bad case of herpes after kissing some kid’s mommy underneath the mistletoe last year. The last thing I need right now is an NSA scandal.”

Perhaps the biggest question mark is how the breech of the naughty/nice database will affect the trust of little boys and girls across the globe. “It’s invasive enough when I watch kids sleep and know when they do naughty things,” said Mr. Claus. “Just imagine if Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid are doing it. That is one helluva ho ho ho!”

Meanwhile, Mr. Claus is not counting on the NSA’s cooperation. Plans call for a sophisticated new 2048-bit encryption key to scramble his data and keep the NSA at bay. He also threatened to put a cubic foot of fracked gas in President Obama’s stocking on Christmas Eve. “Even I don’t use lumps of coal anymore,” he explained.