Feb 092008

Wired magazine tells about a $30 million project to piece together a billion pieces of paper records that were torn up by the East German Stasi, but which they hadn’t gotten around to destroying. And the destroyed records amount to only about five percent of its files:

the agency had generated perhaps more paper than any other bureaucracy in history — possibly a billion pages of surveillance records, informant accounting, reports on espionage, analyses of foreign press, personnel records, and useless minutiae. There’s a record for every time anyone drove across the border.

The main reason we need lower taxes is not for economic growth, though that is an important reason. The main reason is so the government cannot afford to do things remotely like this.

And it’s interesting that even in a government like that of East Germany, it almost seemed laughable at the time to think it would be harassing dissenters by letting the air out of their tires. But the records show that that is indeed what was happening to Ulrike Poppe. Is it really so far-fetched to think that Kathleen Willey was experiencing the same sort of treatment from the Clintons?

She even tracked down the Stasi officer who managed her case, and after she set up a sort of ambush for him at a bar — he thought he was there for a job interview — they continued to get together. Over the course of half a dozen meetings, they talked about what she found in her files, why the Stasi was watching her, what they thought she was doing. For months, it turned out, an agent was assigned to steal her baby stroller and covertly let the air out of her bicycle tires when she went grocery shopping with her two toddlers. “If I had told anyone at the time that the Stasi was giving me flat tires, they would have laughed at me,” she says. “It was a way to discredit people, make them seem crazy. I doubted my own sanity sometimes.” Eventually, the officer broke off contact, but continued to telephone Poppe — often drunk, often late at night, sometimes complaining about his failing marriage. He eventually committed suicide.