The Null Device
Business at the Speed of Thought: A look at the amazingly sophisticated high-tech infrastructure used by those exponents of zero-friction transnational capitalism in its purest form, the Colombian cocaine cartels:
the cartel had assembled a database that contained both the office and residential telephone numbers of U.S. diplomats and agents based in Colombia, along with the entire call log for the phone company in Cali, which was leaked by employees of the utility. The mainframe was loaded with custom-written data-mining software. It cross-referenced the Cali phone exchange's traffic with the phone numbers of American personnel and Colombian intelligence and law enforcement officials. The computer was essentially conducting a perpetual internal mole-hunt of the cartel's organizational chart. "They could correlate phone numbers, personalities, locations -- any way you want to cut it," says the former director of a law enforcement agency. "Santacruz could see if any of his lieutenants were spilling the beans."
They even use a fleet of submarines, mini-subs, and semisubmersibles to ferry drugs -- sometimes, ingeniously, to larger ships hauling cargoes of hazardous waste, in which the insulated bales of cocaine are stashed. "Those ships never get a close inspection, no matter what country you're in," says John Hensley, former head of enforcement for the U.S. Customs Service.
When the Colombian government launched the unit that Velásquez would later head, it established a toll-free tip line for information about Cali Cartel leaders. The traffickers tapped the line, with deadly consequences. "All of these anonymous callers were immediately identified, and they were killed," a former high-ranking DEA official says.
There are three ways the US could attempt to combat this: (a) by bombing Colombia into a parking lot (which is about as much as would be required to eliminate the cartels), (b) by banning the export of sophisticated communications technology (yeah, like that would work), or (c) by legalising cocaine, immediately cutting off the cartels' revenue and leaving them with a multi-billion-dollar technology bill they have no hope of paying off.
Spam watch: Someone calling themselves Roxie Leeks just sent me mail trying to sell me some sort of dental-care programme. I ask you: would you trust your teeth to someone named "Roxie Leeks"?
(It's a bit like those offers of financial services from people with names like porn stars. Very reassuring, that...)