In association with my question of the usage of “blood-dimmed (flood /tragedy) in Maureen Dowd’s article in New York Times- http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/dowd-peeping-president-obama.html?hp - there was the following statement:
“It was quaint to think we had any privacy left, once Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram braided themselves into our days and nights.
As Gene Hackman, playing a disillusioned N.S.A. analyst in the 1998 movie “Enemy of the State” put it, the agency has been in bed with the telecommunications industry for decades, and “they can suck a salt grain off a beach.”
Though I surmise “they can suck a salt grain off a beach” figuratively means to obtain private information of people indirectly, not through a direct contact (to the sea - people) I’m not sure of.”
What does “sack a salt grain off a beach” mean? Is it an idiomatic expression, or twist of a saying? If it is the twist of, or borrowing from something, what is the original source? Why did Dowd put the phrase in parenthesis (correction: quote)?