Here is what we know about the man identified as Santa Claus. He operates under several aliases, to include Father Christmas, St. Nicholas, and Kris Kringle. His outfit is reportedly based out of the North Pole, though reconnaissance platforms have yet to capture his base of operations. His surveillance network is peerless, invasive, and worldwide. He spearheads a single annual clandestine mission. We know he’s coming to town, and we know when, and yet he has eluded capture for two centuries. (He is also, apparently, immortal.)

Santa Claus is, in short, the single most successful spymaster in human history. And while total global surveillance by a non-state actor isn’t necessarily to be applauded, he has earned the world’s begrudging respect for his organization’s sheer competence. Despite his old and sprawling operation, Claus has thus far managed to avoid the sort of intelligence leaks that have proved catastrophic in recent years to the National Security Agency and U.S. Department of State. Indeed, his secrets are kept not only by members of his inner circle, but also a vast swath of the adult world. Accordingly, young people generally under the age of 12 are left entirely in the dark as to Claus’s intentions and temperament.


Based on what we know—and we know very little—Claus’s massive surveillance network is comprised of heretofore unknown signals, imagery, and geospatial intelligence technology. How else does he not only “see you when you’re sleeping,” but also “know when you’re awake” and when you’ve been “bad or good”? In the last decade, the identities of some agents of Claus have been identified. These so-called Elves on the Shelf surveil children and report back to their North Polian handler. ELFINT is likely a profitable endeavor. It also seems very clear that many parents have been recruited as intelligence assets. (“Mom will tell Santa I misbehaved at the movies!”)

The motives of Santa Claus suggest totalitarian instincts. He is not content with simply monitoring public behavior, but also private thoughts and feelings. We know he sees us when we’re sleeping. The natural follow-up question is: why? What could he possibly want to know about our sleeping habits that would contribute to his assessment of our naughty:nice ratio? The answer: our dreams. Call it the first example of REMINT, whereby he adds to his “lists” the thoughts of our subconscious when they are most unguarded.

Consider the pervasiveness of Claus’s intelligence gathering. With respect to behaviors, you are warned to:

  • Watch out
  • Not cry
  • Not pout

Likewise, there is no ambiguity as to the scope of his powers. He’s gonna find out if you’re naughty or nice.


While it is conceivable that all of this is part of a misinformation campaign orchestrated by Claus’s agents, there are unsettling parallels to North Korea. Due to the lack of imagery of his North Pole compound, it cannot be confirmed whether or not a giant portrait of Claus is mounted in a public space, such as that of Kim Il-Sung in his eponymous square, or Mao in Tiananmen Square. (Might Santa’s space be Cinnamon Square? Given his predilection for candy-centric puns, this is at least a possibility.)

The behaviors of Claus merit comparison to another tyrant: Saddam Hussein. Though the former Iraqi dictator is the world leader most famous for using political decoys, he’s a piker compared with Claus, who uses thousands of impersonators annually to draw the world’s attention. So successful are these decoys that people have been known to stand in line for hours at the mall for the chance to meet with a likely imposter. So confident is Claus in his decoy army that he allows them to be photographed ad infinitum. Indeed, for children of a certain age, mall Santas are a kind of limited hangout. “This Santa isn’t real,” they have been known to concede, with the unspoken follow-on thought: “…unlike the actual Santa Claus.”


The question then is how to deal with this omnipotent and omniscient demigod? The Moscow Rules are advised at a minimum, with special attention to, “Everyone is potentially under opposition control.” When parents say “Clean your room or Santa won’t come” or “Don’t hit your brother—Santa’s watching,” are they bluffing or have they in fact been recruited? Motives should be questioned. How do parents benefit from their arrangement with an invasive, record-keeping Claus? While it is a certainty that Internet giants, for example, mine user data, there is a presumption of abstraction. No single person at Google is examining your search history; it’s handled entirely by algorithms. Facebook likely isn’t selling your name to Procter & Gamble; it’s selling your demographic profile. Claus, on the other hand, makes no apologies and offers no disclaimers—he is making a list and checking it twice.

To invite this into one’s home (to say nothing of Claus’s annual, physical manifestation in our living rooms) must come at a high price indeed. That price would seem to be free toys. Even here, however, “free” should be examined. Toys are reportedly manufactured at Claus’s North Pole facilities. Are they licensed? When one gets a Barbie or a Transformer, have Mattel and Hasbro, respectively, been paid licensing fees? Or is this an example of copyright infringement writ large? Are the manufacturers’ revenues lost from these “free” toys thus passed back to the consumer over time through higher toy prices? Or is a more insidious arrangement at work? Do toy manufacturers turn a blind eye to Claus’s bootleg operation in the North Pole—perhaps even encourage his activities—in a subtle attempt to implement the Gillette razor model to sprawling toy lines? Specifically: just as Gillette practically gives away its razors, gambling that consumers will spend hundreds of dollars over time buying replacement blades, does Mattel write off the (free!) distribution of unlicensed Barbie dolls, gambling accurately that parents will return the money at a handsome profit by way of accessories—beachwear, Dream Houses, horses, and Corvettes?

Santa’s Supernatural Surveillance Leaves Us One Choice

Can it be said, then, that in both the long and short term, parents who have wittingly entered into this unholy arrangement with an ancient, all-powerful sorcerer are losing their privacy and freedom in the immediate, and their financial security over time? Faced with total physical and supernatural surveillance, meticulous documentation by way of his “lists,” a perfect record of home invasion (with regularly reported thefts of cookies and milk), an army of agents, an undetectable and impenetrable headquarters in some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet, and economically disruptive, copyright annihilating workshops, parents—indeed the whole world—is left only with one option: to believe in Santa.

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David Brown is a regular contributor to ClearanceJobs. His next book, THE MISSION, will be published later this year by Custom House. He can be found online at