Sunday, April 19, 2009

Not paranoia after all...NSA has been listening in...

This week the New York Times reported-- on Tax Day, how fitting-- that apparently the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies have been "overcollecting" the emails, phone calls and other private information of U.S. citizens-- but they say they've stopped and won't do it anymore. That makes me feel a whole lot better.

Is it better to know than just suspect? Reminds me that in the early days of the Iraq war, the listserve that my organization operates for Western Mass. progressives to share organizing news was openly infiltrated by a Springfield police officer. Officer Phil joined the listserve under his own name. We had quite a bit of discussion about his presence-- should we allow it, or remove him?-- but figured that at least we knew he was there. He was already our unchosen liason with the police department when it came to demonstrations against the war-- he'd call us to ask if we planned civil disobedience and assure us it was OK if we were planning to be arrested, that was our right-- but just wanted to know how many police officers we had on hand. Of course, we did any organizing that related to civil disobedience off-list, as we figured Bush and his cronies were already monitoring us.

We did, eventually, remove Officer Phil, for passing on information he got on the list about a civil disobedience action in another state-- not that we believed the action was not already infiltrated, but simply because his actions were a violation of the same standards to which we held everyone else on the listserve . However, because the list had open membership, and anyone could join (and stay a member, unless posting racist, homophobic, right-wing, etc. rants), I assume he simply rejoined under another name.

Anyone who thinks that listserves, blogs and other internet-posted information are not monitored is kidding himself. We should have no expectation of privacy. Monitoring mail, phone calls and email, however, are a different story. Yet it happened under Bush and I'm sure it will continue to happen under Obama.

Want to communicate a secret without being overheard? Go stand in an open field and keep your fingers crossed. I suspect the overhead satellites are learning to read lips.

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