If you're upset that the National Security Agency has your phone records, it's because you haven't been paying attention. Yes, it does seem illegal and wrong. Wrong it is. But illegal? Not so much.
First of all, the NSA didn't get your phone records through espionagesque skulduggery. They got them the same way telemarketing firms get their information: They paid for it in cold, hard cash. Actually, they probably paid by check, but you get the idea. It was a check big enough to make three of the nation's four largest phone service providers --AT & T, Bell South and Verizon-- smile, step aside, make an arm-sweeping gesture and say, "Of course. Take whatever you like." There was nothing cloak and dagger about it. It was a straightforward business deal.
The only company of the four to tell the Executive Branch to go [coitate] itself was Qwest. I'd like to believe they did so as a matter of principle. And I'll take any principle. I'd prefer the one that goes, "Hey, this doesn't seem right," of course, but I'll gladly accept the more marketing-oriented one that says, "Go with a company that showed a little backbone." Yes, I'd like to think it was principle. More likely, though, they were just holding out for a bigger check.
Even if you take at face value Qwest's reluctance to be corporate milquetoast and sell their customers' transduced souls, it still makes for an interesting impromtu study in something we don't like to think about too often: Three out of four Rulers of Corporate America is a sense-of-entitlement-reeking, rolling-in-more-dough-than-the-Creator-of-the-Universe (whomever or whatever it might be,) largely inbred and utterly isolated spiritual cannibal who thinks the biggest problem this country faces is that there isn't enough demarcation between the different strata of its unspoken caste system. It's that attitude, at least in part, that makes it easy for them to sell you out to your own government. And it is that same attitude that made the government buy you with your own tax dollars when they didn't have to.
Because, y'see, the government didn't have to pay. Not really. Your phone calls are not private. They virtually never have been.
First of all, until a relatively short time ago at least, there were many people in this country who had what were called "party" phone lines. For all I know, there may still be a few out there. If you've never heard of one, have an older relative tell you about it. Moreover, even people with private lines still had to route nearly all of their calls through a switchboard somewhere-- a switchboard run by a real-life operator. There are still many, many phones that have the word "operator" printed on them somewhere near the zero key.
But I'm not even talking about that. I'm talking about today... and the Federal Communications Act of 1933. Think about it: Just about every call that you or I or your aunt Gertrude makes, everyday, involves either a cellphone or a cordless phone. Even if you aren't using one on your end of the call, the person you're conversing with probably is. Right? Well, cellular phones and land-based phones with cordless receivers both use radio waves. According to the Federal Communications Act of 1933, radio waves cannot be owned. Or privatized. Any information --such as your phone call-- carried on any radio wave is not protected by any privacy laws or provisions. You are, in effect, broadcasting... and anybody with a receiver capable of tuning to the right frequency is perfectly within their rights to listen. Anybody.
Something tells me the NSA probably has a piece of equiptment like that. One or two, anyway. What's your guess?
If anybody should be [whizzed] at the NSA, it's the FBI. After all, spying on Americans --right here in America-- is their job. I think they should --oh, I don't know-- raid the NSA. As for you and me, we should be [pea owed] at the phone company. But what's new about that?
Right now, I'd like to give a big "shout out" to ALL of our loyal readers at the National Security Agency. (I think his name is Howard.) Congratulations on giving those CIA [expletives] yet another sharp elbow to the solar plexus. My, those agency budget wars have been getting awfully confrontational lately, haven't they? Remember to dust for fingerprints at least three times a day and, ah, you might want to take a quick look over your shoulder every now and then, too.
P.S... Bud "If That's Senator Mitchell on the Phone, Tell Him I'm Not Here" Selig must go.