McSweeney’s Inadvertently Discovers the Microbiome

This is snark from the satirical website McSweeney’s about the NSA, but it’s actually not bad microbiology:

I can assure you, in no uncertain terms, that the NSA is not asking for samples of your fecal matter.

We will not be sending NSA agents door-to-door asking you to defecate in a cup. This applies whether or not the NSA agent has obtained a signed order from a doctor stating that the collection of your particular fecal matter is in the interest of national security….

The NSA also will not be conducting a voluntary compliance “feces-by-mail” program wherein we request that all Americans collect their own fecal samples in a sterile receptacle, which the NSA would include free of charge, by the way, then place the receptacle in the enclosed medical bag, and drop the sample at one of our designated “Keep America Safe” collection points. It’s pretty simple, and actually a pretty effective way to fight terrorism, but in any event, the NSA has not implemented any such program, and we do not have any plans to do so. Even though, as I said, it would place very little burden on the average citizen while providing potentially enormous benefits to the NSA’s mission. Still, we’re not going to do it.

Another thing the NSA will not be doing is directing a program to bypass the American people altogether and just collect your feces straight from municipal sewage plants. Under such a program, the sewage plants definitely would not be aware of our efforts to access their systems and collect all your feces. But it doesn’t matter, because there won’t be such a program.

That’s not to say that if the NSA were to create such a program, just hypothetically, that it wouldn’t provide a substantial benefit to our national security. In theory, it could form the basis for invaluable research on American dietary habits, microbial and bacterial threats, and a host of other scientific concerns. It could bolster the efforts of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and protect the population from future outbreaks and threats of biological warfare.

Actually, this doesn’t sound too different from a few grant proposals I’ve read….

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