As any intelligence operative knows, isolated facts don't tell you much. If some random person mentions a bomb somewhere on the Internet, is that a threat? A joke? A mistake? To understand data you need a context and a narrative. You need to be able to put it in a story.
So it makes sense that, in trying to understand the intelligence community itself, journalists and reporters use stories too. The PEN American Center, a group that works to advance literature and freedom expression, just released a study looking at the metaphors reporters used to explain the revelations about NSA spying in June 2013. Examining the work of 105 authors and 60 news outlets over two months, PEN found that journalists most often used metaphors of collecting (9.31 percent), but other approaches included nautical metaphors (tentacles, trawling, leviathan), war metaphors (blitz, invade), and metaphors of authoritarianism (totalitarian, police state, Nazi.)
PEN also found that journalists used literary analogies to try to explain NSA surveillance. Or rather, they used one literary analogy. George Orwell's 1984 was the only work referenced.
Orwell's ubiquity is not exactly a surprise—Rebecca Rosen wrote about how central 1984 is to these discussions here at The Atlantic last June. Still, the fact that 1984 is the only book PEN could find cited shows a striking lack of imagination. To paraphrase a quote by Benjamin Cardozo that the PEN site references, the use of Orwell seems, in this case, not to liberate thought, but to enslave it.