ASHVILLE: "Bulk information overload, that's my favorite argument in debate," Lena Grossman tells me in between bites of pizza during a short lunch break after winning a round at the Billy Tate Southern Bell Forum, a highly competitive, invitation-only debate competition held annually in Nashville. She thinks the U.S. government vacuums up more digital data than it knows what to do with — which hinders investigations more than it helps. "The evidence is always going to be better. … It's just unbeatable," she says. "People are lazy in research sometimes — but the strategies against this argument just don't exist."
Lena is 17, a senior at Niles West High School outside Chicago. She's a former video game junkie with the build of a great blue heron, and part of a top-ranked, two-girl "policy debate" team. Lena's partner is Faith Geraghty, 18, a blonde pit bull in Doc Martens and a former ice hockey champion who traded in her skates for an ever-present MacBook — now crammed full of information about things like the upcoming congressional debate on NSA spying programs authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.