Possibly the most interesting part of the shock and dismay over the government’s secret surveillance of Verizon — and presumably all — cell phone records isn’t the surveillance itself, but the irony. The government has been reaching its silent tentacles into our private business for years, and if you don’t believe that, oh my goodness, I could just pinch your cheek.
But the irony. Oh, the irony: Those who are foaming and frothing about their Fourth Amendment rights are doing exactly the same thing as the Second Amendment worshippers do when they think their holy right to bear arms is being infringed upon.
Meanwhile Second Amendment worshippers are scratching their heads and muttering, “There are other amendments?”
The color of the outrage depends on whose Amendment is being gored, but the behavior is identical: vigorous protest when the rights one holds dear appear to be in jeopardy. Want to see me foam and froth? Start stepping on my First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of the press, and watch me go ballistic.
If everyone could just shut up for a minute and think with our mouths closed for a change, we’d realize that we’re more alike than not. We believe our government is “of the people, by the people, for the people,” and that we control the government, not vice versa.
(Oh my God, aren’t we precious?)
Let’s hit pause on the respective amendment outrages, and recognize that if America is to survive, we must be a red-white-and-blue country, rather than a Red country and a Blue country locked in an epic tiger-vs.-dragon battle. That’s our only hope of reining this country back into control. Right now? We aren’t holding the reins, we’re clutching our seats in the wagon, hoping we don’t bounce out when a wheel hits a rock. The horses galloping away with the cart are the corporations. Congress? They’re in the driver’s seat, tugging impotently on the reins, trying to steer the horses away from the edge of the cliff.
But we aren’t focused on that, we’re freaking out because the recent National Security Agency shenanigans stab at the heart of our Constitution, particularly on the heels of the IRS party-hearty hootenanny on our dime. (Side note on the IRS: Go, karma, go!)
We’re acting so surprised! But this cell phone surveillance — it’s old news. I remember news reports on it just a few months ago, without a peep of reaction. Google it. You’ll have to go back about 25 pages because there are about 85,000 current stories on the topic, but eventually you’ll find the old stories that nobody cared about back then.
With almost zero effort, I found a New York Times story, dated May 17, 2006 (umm … who was President then???), in which Verizon denied turning over phone records to the NSA, which was compiling a database of phone records to track terrorist activities. The story notes, that via its purchase of MCI, Verizon actually was turning over records. The company stated that it “had not provided customer records to the National Security Agency ‘from the time of the 9/11 attacks until just four months ago.’ ”
Lesseee, four months ago from May 2006 is January 2006. That’s when the cell phone surveillance began. The story further notes that AT&T had also turned phone records over to the NSA, and because the Bell company refused to comment, we can deduce that Bell’s records were turned over too, and probably all the other cell phone carriers as well.
You must set aside your Fourth Amendment outrage and face hard, cold reality. Google the story. You’ll discover that the NSA had access to phone and email records in December 2005, and that the NSA “had amassed a database with tens of millions of call records in an effort to create a log of virtually ever call made in the country.”
Dude. It’s been going on for eight years. That’s tens of millions of call records times eight. But, for whatever reason, at the moment. it’s a big shiny object, and the mass media has screamed, “Squirrel!” and the populace has charged off after it like hounds after a fox. Meanwhile, the issue that’s the biggest threat to our country creeps on without notice: Sequestration. Remember sequestration?
We were all worked up over sequestration last fall — the Fiscal Cliff had everyone wringing their hands. But then Newtown happened, and then the government was after our guns, and then gays were trying to get married again, and sequestration seemed oh-so-five-minutes-ago. But it’s still there. And now it’s starting to kick in.
Because Congress still hasn’t produced a balanced budget and ended the sequestration, everything from Medi-Cal to public housing to the military is poised to have an arm or leg lopped off and slowly bleed to death. Hundreds of thousands will lose their jobs, and we will lose the services those jobs provided.
Meanwhile, we’re busy screaming about Fourth Amendment rights and our so-called representatives are happily fluffing up feathers of outrage over the IRS spending $64,000 on plastic squirting fishes, while silently excessively grateful for the huge distraction from the fact that they aren’t doing their jobs. I’m starting to wonder if the government and the mass media are in cahoots, distracting the populace so they’ll forget about what’s important, and continue to glue themselves to the television and keep those commercial dollars a-rollin’ in. Yay! More hay for the horses!
In the months to come, we’ll start seeing people in our own communities become homeless. Unemployed. Hungry. Sick. And there won’t be any federal safety net to catch them. Instead of pouring your outrage into the government discovering how many times you call Domino’s Pizza, redirect that energy into demanding that Congress get off its corporate-lovin’, self-serving ass and do its job: Pass a balanced budget and end the sequestration.
It’s time for We the People to grab the reins.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.edebra.com