by Roger Koppl
I was thinking of the NSA scandal while jogging through Rome’s Park of the Aqueducts this morning. I guess it was that setting that made me think of our new computer-geek overlords as a virtual Praetorian Guard. Augustus created the original Praetorian Guard about 27 BCE to protect the emperor. It quickly came to exercise independent power, once even auctioning off the empire to the highest bidder. This outrage led the Roman general Septimius Severus to march on Rome and displace Emperor Julianus who had won the Praetorian bidding war. Severus disbanded the old Preatorian Guard only to set up a new Praetorian Guard, which quickly achieved a similar authority, power, and autonomy. The “intelligence community” of the US government seems to be playing a similar role today.