LONDON – Fans of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy will fondly remember Oliver’s complaint to Stanley: “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!” In a future remake, Hardy will be played by Barack Obama, suitably enhanced with a toothbrush moustache, while Keith Alexander, currently head of the U.S. National Security Agency, will star as Laurel. The scene in which this particular bit of dialogue occurs is the Oval Office, which for the purposes of the scene is littered with flip charts summarizing the various unintended consequences of the NSA’s recent activities, as relayed by Edward Snowden.
One chart, supplied by the Department of Commerce, lists the collateral damage inflicted by the revelations on major U.S. Internet companies. Until the Snowden story broke last June, it was a racing certainty that they would dominate the world market for cloud-computing services. Maybe they still will, but the odds have lengthened.