two thousand twenty
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By John Addyman

   I’m really upset about the National Security Agency’s level of spying. In fact, I feel like I might be going through life with some NSA governmental operative shadowing me. And I’m just a little guy.
   This is an agency that can listen to my phone calls if it wants to…and nobody is required to tell me that I’m being monitored. Nobody has to send me notice. There’s no court hearing that I’m invited to.
   And the NSA can monitor my e-mails. And see what websites I visit. And see who is checking me out on Linked-in and Facebook.
   We now hear that the NSA – a governmental entity that sucks up a lot of your money and mine – is also monitoring the phone calls of foreign leaders, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, foreign leaders who have promised they will jump in the foxholes with us as part of NATO. Those are important friends we’re spying on. Why?
   The pervasiveness of the spying is one thing, but the intimacy is something else.
   Many years ago, our house in Exton, PA was robbed. A kid broke in a back door on a hot summer night and grabbed my wife’s purse off a chair. We didn’t know anything had happened until one of my students (I was a teacher at the time) came to our front door at 7:30 in the morning and said my wife’s wallet and contents were all over her yard.
   It wasn’t that we lost something of value that shook my wife and me, it was the fact that our personal space had been violated. Something we thought was secure and just ours had been forcibly invaded. We didn’t get raped, but it sure felt like something similar.
   So picture, if you will, that instead of listening to your phone calls and watching your e-mails by satellite and electronic tracking gear from miles and miles away, the NSA sent some of its well-paid thugs to stand in your closet and lie under your bed and lurk in the corner of your office when you’re engaged in communicating with your friends and family and business associates.
   What would you do if you were in a hotel on a business trip, talking on the phone to your wife and kids back home, sharing family news and details, and you happened to notice one of these taxpayer-supported NSA dudes lingering in your closet?
   You’d ask, “What are you doing in my room?”
   “I’m listening to your phone call. It’s okay, I’m with the government,” the guy would say.
   “Get out of my room!”
   “I can leave, but I’m still going to bug your phone…and your computer, too. You can’t stop me. We have judges and special secret courts that say it’s all right,” the guy would say. 
   “Who ARE you?!!” you’d ask.
   “I’m from the NSA,” the guy would say. You notice that he’s dressed in a business suit. You’re upset, but he’s completely relaxed.
   “Why are you bugging my phone?” you ask. “I’m from Wayne County. What is of strategic importance is Wayne County?”
   The guy shifts on his feet a little. “We bug just about everybody,” he says. “Somebody has to go to work in this economy. If it makes you feel better, you’re in good company. Many of the most important people in the world are bugged by us.”
   “And I’m paying you to do it?”
   “You are! Thanks! By the way, I’m sorry your kids are sick at home. Make sure they take their Vitamin C. And you should really open that e-mail from your sister.”
   And the guy leaves. But as he walks down the hall, he’s talking on a cell phone, and you just know that the next guy in line is about to pick you up.
   Now change the scene.
   What if you were in your house, talking to someone on the phone, and you noticed someone standing in the corner listening to your conversation and writing things down?
   You’d try to hit the guy with the nearest blunt object.  If he protested he was from the government and was doing it for your own good, you just might reach for a larger blunt object.
   The knowledge that all of this surveillance is being done in secret is one thing. But because it’s being done on such a scale, involving millions of people who have nothing to do with crime or terrorism, without a public court or legislature or news media really watching what was going on, feels like someone is crawling into your pants.
   Do you feel violated? Maybe if the NSA guys were really coming into our homes to listen in and do their surveillance, we’d all be a whole lot more upset. But they’re doing it in secret, and nobody seems to know quite how much is being done, who controls it, and how to stop it.
   Months after my wife and I were burglarized, we got to sit in court when the kid who did the thievery was brought to justice.  We got closure. But we never forgot that morning, and how we felt afterwards.
   I’ve got that same feeling going on today. I don’t know if my phone is being tapped or my e-mails read, but I write for several newspapers and this blog, so my name might just be on one of those long, long computer lists.
   Have you been to a foreign land as a traveler? Do you cross the border to enjoy Canada? Have you had a ticket for speeding? Is your medical information on a hospital system’s computer? Do you buy insurance? Have a driver’s license? Shop on eBay? Use an EBT card or debit card? Have a license for your dog? A computerized library card?
   Then you better take a look around you right now to see if one of those NSA guys is in your closet…



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