Hi, Mom — happy belated Mother’s Day! Sorry this is a couple of days late, and I would have called, but given that you’re now living in Afghanistan (I knew things were rough with you and dad, but running off to the Middle East with Ahmad? What were you thinking?), I didn’t want to give anyone in "higher places" the wrong idea. I guess I’ll have to exclusively enter the world of "IMing" and "texting" and "tediously pecking out messages on my Blackberry with my oversized meaty thumbs" and completely stop using my phone. I mean, I’m sure the NSA isn’t monitoring internet communications, right? Your son, Prescott
Sorry, everyone, thanks for that moment of personal business. For those of you that don’t know why my paranoia receptors are currently on red alert, it’s been recently released that the National Security Agency has been assembling the phone records of tens of millions of American citizens. Sure, personally identifying information has been removed from those records, but if Evercheap Aluminum Siding’s band of telemarketers can track people down at their unlisted numbers, I would think the NSA could as well.
There are certainly arguments to be made on both sides of the issue, and government has been stepping on our privacy for a long time — Bobby Kennedy’s wiretapping of Martin Luther King, Nixon’s foibles, Clinton’s gathering of FBI personnel files, all have led up to this latest round of snooping. But the one argument that infuriates me the most in favor of domestic spying is the one I hear frequently on conservative talk radio:
"I have nothing to hide, so I don’t care, let them look all they want."
Bullshit. The only reason they don’t care is because it’s had no effect on their personal lives — yet. Just billions of data records being electronically shuffled into a computer, all conducted within the shadows. But what reaction would they have if every day when driving to work they have to pass through a roadside checkpoint? What if the government decides to knock on doors (or even do away with that formality) and conduct random checks of your computer’s web surfing history? I remember the loud wailing and moaning just weeks after 9/11 because precious minutes were added to the time needed to pass through airport security, I can only imagine the outcry at further inconvenience within the daily routine.
All of this latest news reminded me of a conversation I had with a former boss when I read in the local paper that police were conducting unannounced canine drug sweeps of all property at his son’s high school — including the parking lot and students’ cars. His reasoning was the same; his son didn’t do drugs, and had nothing to worry about. But while the drug searches are within the school district’s legal boundaries, does that necessarily make it right? What the NSA is doing appears to be legal as well. Just because minors don’t have the full set of rights that adults do, is it always the best course to rub that in their faces? I would prefer my sons are always presumed innocent. I would prefer the school refrains from subjecting them to unwarranted search and seizure. I would prefer that district officials apologize for violating my kids’ sense of privacy in the name of "preventative measures" that don’t work — in the above mentioned school, searches managed to turn up only two minor marijuana violations. I’m confident enough in my parenting skills that I’m not worried about sending my teen into a building where there may be one joint in a locker. But I’m afraid my preferences will not be granted in our society of ever growing government intrusion.
My only hope now is that the nanny state does not escalate to a police state, and we find our children riding the school bus with armed guards as they do in Israel. Because if those are the extremes we need to keep America safe, then I’m not all that sure that it’s an America worth saving.