No one deals more weapons to the rest of the world than we do. During 2008 alone, the United States drummed up an extraordinary $37.8 billion in arms-transfer agreements, largely benefiting key allies in Africa and the Middle East.
But the US also may do more than virtually any other country to keep track of its weapons, as well as to halt—or at least actively monitor—bad actors and rogue governments seeking to obtain deadly devices.
Details about that global arms trade are emerging in thousands of classified documents unleashed on three major occasions this year by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, including the State Department cables now making daily headlines.
One is characterized by extraordinary wealth, endless adoration, and a certain place in history. The other endures grinding repetition, virtual anonymity, and paychecks that seem to graduate at the slowest pace humanly possible over a period of decades.
Celebrities and low-level bureaucrats couldn't exist farther apart from one another. So perhaps it's no surprise that government employees can't fight the urge to pry into the private lives of high-profile figures using something they do have: access to vast digital repositories of sensitive personal information.
No amount of specialized training and threats of criminal prosecution seem capable of slowing the stories that emerge periodically and predictably of another government worker getting into trouble for drawing up private records not just on Hollywood actors, rock stars, and political candidates, but everyday people, too.
Police employees in Massachusetts searched for personal details on NFL athlete Tom Brady nearly 1,000 times. In Tennessee, a probation officer allegedly checked up on his neighbors. One border protection officer scanned for family members and drug traffickers he knew from working at a Tequila Frogs in Juarez, according to court records. The man purportedly did it using a network that contains anti-terrorism intelligence records and more, known as TECS.