WE SNOOP TO CONQUER
Like many responsible citizens, I was outraged by the revelation that we were tapping the cell phones and other private communication devices of world leaders and seemingly everybody else, including those nests of subversion in Trappist monasteries. It seemed so outrageous, so un-American for us in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, snooping to conquer in such a sneaky way.
But then I asked myself, what am I getting so upset about?
Spying has been going on for a long time. All the countries we allegedly are spying on, are spying on us. If not, why not? In diplomacy, as in real life, there is an old American saying: “Trust your mother, but cut the cards.”
What do those whining foreign leaders have to hide?
Anyway, who cares?
Well, it just goes to show how ignorant I am about national security issues. Maybe it’s important to know that Angela Merkel told her cook in 2002 to buy an extra two-and-a-half pounds of knablewurst, she’s bringing home the Danish charge d’affairs to celebrate Oktoberfest?
How is the average Justaminuteman to know what’s important about the Spanish finance minister taking dancing lessons from a Flamenco dancer, who is really hot?
How do I know where all of these bits fit into the bigger picture, unless our super duper snoopers pry into the underwear drawers, so to speak?
It might help the public if these secret issues were openly discussed on our leading sources of reliable objective information, cable network news.
Along these lines, I have a suggestion. Why not have a weekly news quiz show, which might run on the new improved, less comatose, snazzier CNN, or even on my latest favorite source of the truth, Al Jazeera. Called “I (Love) Surveillance” or “Can You Tap This?” (Pat. Pending), the quiz show would feature the playing of the week’s Top 40 NSA hits.
The recordings would be spun before a panel of authorities including Civil Rights lawyers like Floyd Abrams or Martin Garbus; leading academics; Administration officials; metaphysicians, and a member of the public who really knows about wires, a Mafioso on the government’s Witness Protection Program.
The show would open with the arrival of a phalanx of NSA officials to the tune of “God Bless America,” or the early American folk song, the theme music from “I’ve Got a Secret.”
A few words from the show’s sponsor--James R. Clapper Jr. , the director of national intelligence, on behalf of NSA and its 35,000 workers and a budget of $10.8 billion a year--would tell the folks at home how interesting and rewarding it is listening into other people’s conversations.
The Public Information Officer in charge of lying to the press about NSA patriotic work would explain the game’s rules. Trustworthy civilian contract workers who made the selection of the week’s best intercepts, would then open to a drum roll the lockbox carrying the tapes.
And then the countdown of the Top 40 Hits would begin, with a brief remark by the NSA spokesperson giving the background and justification for each intercept.
Rather than having a newsman like Mister Charisma, Wolf Blitzkrieg, reading a transcript on the screen, I prefer re-enactments of the phones calls. Somebody like Bob Newhart might come out of retirement and do his “Something like this…” man-on-the phone bits in the manner of his “Sir Walter Raleigh Reporting His Discovery of Tobacco” bit. Who will ever forget his famous disbelief and stammer reporting of “The Wright Brothers Invention” and “Abe Lincoln versus Madison Avenue.”
The panel would then argue whether the tap was justified in terms of our Constitution, Congressional laws, and Executive Office mandates. Panelists will be allowed final 15- second sound bite summaries of their position. A ticking clock, a gong, buzzers, perhaps all three, would indicate time is up. Rendered judgments would be displayed on the blinking lights scoreboard: “Yes,” “No,” “Definite Maybe” or “Taking the Fifth.”
There are some kinks to be ironed out in the format –this is just off the top of my head. The concept is still a little weak on production values. There might be, for example, home audience participation, via Twitter and Facebook. Whoever makes the most outrageous comment is awarded a free drone ride. Should there be a closing Busby Berkely special with a bevy of gorgeous NSA employees singing “Getting to Know You?”
The basic sales message of the show is stealing secrets is a fun thing, and not the appalling, disgusting actions of a democracy like ours tapping not only foreign leaders but its own people.
Meanwhile, there are ways to protect the sanctity of our snooping activities, by the use of lower tech methods of communicating such as Aldis Lamp, semaphore, smoke signals and the once popular carrier pigeon. The Justaminutemen prefer that all nations pool their illicit data bank material in a central exchange, controlled by a trustworthy multi-national administration that can release the tapped material on a need to know, the model being a cost-efficient public lending library. You never know what government would need access to a day’s worth of my wife’s Skype calls to our daughter in London.
PIO, Justaminutemen Productions