Humor: Despite the impasse over surveillance legislation, the U.S. is listening to Al Qaeda. Really.

The idea that congressional Democrats and the White House can't agree on a spy bill is a hoax. Bin Laden, we're on your phone line.

From: Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell

To: Congress

Re: Staged surveillance bill "debate"

As far as the rest of the world knows, the temporary law authorizing our warrantless wiretapping expired at midnight on Feb. 16. Since then, the program has appeared to have no controlling legal authority, as House Democrats and the White House have battled over whose version of a new surveillance bill to adopt.

But as you all know, this argument thing is fake! What's really going on here is a massive covert operation in which key members of Congress pretend to stall – and the president pretends to care – in hopes of fooling our enemies into believing that the NSA really has pulled off its earphones, because some judge somewhere told it to!

And it's worked. After months of silence, Al Qaeda chatter is filling the ether once again, providing unique insight into their organization and plans. Some examples:

Ayman Al-Bwahari, Al Qaeda's deputy to the assistant director for the development of scary video policy, has been overheard plotting to seize a larger office from a lower-ranking assistant.

Jihadist fighters in training in the remote tribal areas of Pakistan are thought to be planning a camp production of "Madrassah School Musical 2."

•Plans for the new offshoot group Al Qaeda in Greenland have been indefinitely postponed due to a trademark dispute with a techno-pop band of the same name from the town of Narsq.

•Cellphone communications that intelligence analysts believe emanate from Osama bin Laden himself, or possibly his cousin, or his cousin's best friend, or someone who does or does not (we can only surmise) know these people, have pinpointed the location of Al Qaeda's senior leaders in an area other intelligence analysts describe as "between the North and South Poles."

Thanks to all for helping make discovery of this trove possible. But the debate has now hit the limits of credulity, so we anticipate pretending to agree on the surveillance bill in coming days, thus bringing the "standoff" to an end.

So, on to the next project: thoroughly confusing everyone about the legal status of waterboarding, while drawing moral implications from the plots of television spy thrillers. See you at the hearings!

Peter Grier is a writer in the Monitor's Washington bureau.

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