“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls.” So said Barack Obama two days after London’s the Guardian news outlet broke the story that the government has required cellular provider Verizon to turn over its daily customer call information to the National Security Agency. Given that the IRS initially swore that it was in no way targeting conservative groups for additional (i.e. seriously invasive) scrutiny, Obama’s reassurances have left me inadequately warm and insufficiently fuzzy. Nevertheless, I am an optimist and look for the positive in any situation. So, on the bright side, we learned that Verizon customers (of which I am one) have free, unlimited mobile to government minutes.
As Martin ably pointed out in these pages recently, Verizon is probably not the only cell phone company complying with the government mandate, nor is it likely limited to the information we have so far been told. Certainly, speculation about other carriers has been making the rounds as well. Curiously, I have not heard any such speculation about T-Mobile. Given that, I suspect would-be terrorists are frantically switching to T-Mobile as the cell provider.
If this isn’t bad enough, it was also disclosed last week that the NSA has been gathering internet data, including audio, video, photographs, e-mails and searches, from nine U. S. internet providers. Perhaps this helps explain why, after a recent online clothing purchase from Lands’ End, I received an e-mail from a Nat. S. Agenzee that said simply, “Plaid, really?” One can only wonder how the NSA handles employment interviews. I presume the interviewers introduce themselves by saying, “We’ve met.” Upon receipt of a resume, I suppose they just say, “We know, we know.”
President Obama has ordered the Justice Department to look into the leaks that led to the revelations in the Guardian. (As with most administrations, this one certainly believes that leaks are bad, except when they’re not. See: Killing Osama bin Laden.) We fully expect reporters for the Guardian to be named, ala Fox News’ James Rosen, as co-conspirators. And how long before Tea Party groups start receiving additional scrutiny from the IRS like, “We already know about everything else. Now, about those prayers?” The government, it seems, just can’t help itself. Remember when Barack Obama recently told Ohio State University graduates to ignore those who warn that tyranny is lurking just around the corner? Well, it’s no longer just around the corner, it’s in your family room, sitting on the sofa with its feet up on the coffee table – and has full control of the remote.
Granted, I think we can all agree that finding the bad guys, those terrorists who want to blow up, shoot or otherwise kill, maim and injure Americans, is an incredibly difficult job. We certainly don’t want to make the job harder than it already is. But at what cost? We can all live in gulags and be incredibly safe, but then we’d never get to watch Jersey Shore, The Apprentice or Keeping Up With The Kardashians and what kind of life would that be? (Wait, don’t answer – that actually makes it kind of appealing.) Suffice to say that we are in unchartered territory for the government, its citizens and technology. And another thing – what’s so wrong with plaid?
Finally, in another news leak from unchartered territory, we heard that Justin Bieber has signed up to fly to space with Virgin Airlines’ commercial space tourism program, Virgin Galactic. Sadly, we hear there will be a return trip back to earth. (Of course, the NSA already knew that.)
Curtice Mang is the author of the new book, The Constitution – I’m Not Kidding and Other Tales of Liberal Folly. He can be contacted at www.mangwrites.com, where one can also purchase his book; or contact Curtice at mangwrites at cox.net.