We have the right to remain silent
June 13, 2013
I've heard a lot of people complaining about invasion of privacy this week. Americans everywhere were angry to learn that the NSA has received a blanket court order to monitor the phone calls and electronic communications of American citizens. It's outrageous that our own government is spying on us, right?
What's next, personal searches before we board public transportation? Government agents going through our luggage at will? Concentration camps where we hold people who aren't exactly POWs or criminals because they could be terrorists?
Really folks, you're surprised that they're listening to your cellphone calls? I'm reminded of the scene from Casablanca when Captain Renault says, "I'm shocked, shocked to find out there's gambling going on here!" then is handed the chips he won that evening.
Let's see; the Patriot Act was passed (a name as misleading as the McDonald's Diet) over a decade ago; shortly afterward we created something called the Department of Homeland Security, which sounds like an evil Soviet organization that James Bond fought during the Cold War. Then there was that former AT&T employee who admitted back around 2004 that he was running an extra set of lines for the NSA so they could monitor our emails.
Still I'm shocked, shocked to discover there is domestic spying going on!
Seriously, I don't mean to downplay a serious problem … I mean to openly mock it! Apparently we have the right to remain silent … because somebody will be listening if we don't.
The NSA (which stands for No Such Agency because they don't admit to anything … even existing) assures us that we have nothing to worry about because they don't actually listen to every cell phone call. In fact they don't really listen, they just track who we call and look for patterns that might indicate terrorist activity…trust them! They're from the government and their here to help.
I'm shocked, shocked to discover they expect us to trade rights for security!
The truth is that government intruding in the lives of Americans is not anything new. It was common practice for the government to censure letters to and from service men during World War Two because loose lips sink ships. Again, citizens surrendered privacy in exchange for a promised measure of security from the government.
I'm not a lawyer and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night but I figure that the mail censuring during World War II established a precedence for the government determining when the threat to national security is sufficient to monitor our mail … or email.
This isn't a partisan political issue, despite the ranting of the left wing media or Fox News and their band of idiots, because President Bush started this current mess and President Obama has just added to it. It seems that executive power is like Spanish Fly to presidents … once they get a taste of it, they just can't get enough.
I don't know what bothers me more; that the NSA monitors our email and cell phone calls or that most Americans think that it's something new. About six years a go a lawyer told me that the "be" in email stands for evidence because everything you send electronically can and will e used against you.
The idea of trading rights for security rubs me the wrong way because nobody ever asked me if I were willing to make that trade. Did you get that memo? Maybe it's just me but it seems that there is something inherently un-American about the government taking any right from its citizens without their express consent.
I never gave my consent to have my luggage or my person searched by a government agent, I don't remember agreeing to allow my phone calls to be monitored or my emails to be review … did you?
The fact is that I wouldn't trade my rights for security because I'm way more afraid of a government that would take those rights than I am of some low-rent foreign extremist.
Speaking for myself I'll decline the trade; they can leave my cellphone and email alone and I'll take my chances.
I'm shocked, shocked that we continue to put up with this nonsense. If government draws it's authority from the consent of the governed, then I'll trade my consent for a steaming hot cup of leave me the hell alone!
Sorry for the rant, next week I'll go back to being clever … well, almost clever.
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist.