Ever since Edward Snowden leaked information about massive government surveillance programs there has been a lot of news, debate, and controversy about the NSA and other government agencies in the US and abroad. A month ago the German Chancellor Angela Merkel discovered that the NSA had been tapping her cell phone since 2002 and was, understandably, upset. So upset that she called President Obama and gave him an earful.
The reactions of American politicians and news analysts to Chancellor Merkel’s indignation seemed to be mostly ‘This sort of thing has been going on for decades. Everybody knows that. Any reasonably intelligent government official should automatically assume they will be the target of surveillance from foreign powers. So grow up Ms. Merkel! This is 2013 for goodness sake!’
I believe there is an overwhelming attitude in Washington (and across all levels of government and politics) that sees surveillance as a ‘necessary evil’ and ‘a key tool in our ongoing war on terrorism.’ And they believe the NSA is perfectly justified spying on our allies or any other nefarious individuals they might stumble across. So, if the German Chancellor is miffed about it well, tough noogies! That’s just the cost of freedom these days.
However I also believe that the majority of politicians in this country don’t believe anyone is spying on them. No one, not even the NSA would dare spy on congressmen, senators, cabinet members, governors, mayors, city council members, police chiefs, or anyone else who holds a public office…would they?
I believe the same people who think spying on Chancellor Merkel is ‘unfortunate but not that big a deal’ would be outraged if they found out that their phones were being tapped, their emails and their text messages routinely monitored…retroactively for the past five years or so. Oh yea, and based on testimony from NSA Director Keith Alexander the surveillance would also include their spouse’s phone, email, and text messages, their children’s phone, email, and text messages, and the phone, email, and texts from everyone they ever spoke to, and everyone those people ever spoke to too.
And even though the NSA is not supposed to spy on Americans (unless they want to) they have arrangements with the British, Canadian, Israeli, and even the German secret service organizations so if they want to spy on an American they just ask someone else to do it for them.
So here’s a little reality test for all our elected officials. What if we just add one small item to every oath of office speech?
‘By accepting this position of office I agree to have my phone, email, and text messages monitored (going back five years). And I also agree to have all my spouse’s and children’s communications monitored. And I understand that anyone I may have contact with will also have their communications monitored too. I will also not inquire about who is doing the monitoring or why since I trust that my government would never, ever do anything bad with any information they might find.’
I dare you to find any elected official who would ever agree to something like this. Not because they are such strong proponents of the fourth Amendment, it would be because of all the scandals, illegal activities, questionable deals, and other dirty little tid-bits of their lives that they don’t want anyone to know about.