NSA Spies Are Counting My Blueberries

NSA Spies

A funny thing happened on the way here this morning. The day started as usual, with me turning on my computer, checking emails, a quick peek at Facebook, a hurried glance over the day’s headlines, and logging into my site.

Well, imagine my surprise when, as I reached my log-in page, I bumped into a pimple-faced young man wearing thick, round spectacles, a sky blue button up shirt (pocket filled with an assortment of pens and mechanical pencils), faded jeans, and white sneakers. His pale complexion flushed when he turned and saw me behind him. Of course, I immediately asked what he was doing at the entrance to my website, pressing a juice glass against the door. Well, let me tell you, that nervous young fellow commenced to stuttering and stammering like his tongue and lips were completely out of synch. And, since his right ear was the color of over-ripe cherries, it was obvious that he’d had it pressed against the bottom of the glass, listening.

On the floor next to the geek’s feet were a dozen or papers, all laying at various angles, like he’d been shuffling through trying to find a particular page. Before the stranger could object, I reached down and grabbed a couple of the lined sheets, and I was startled by what I saw written in bold, blue ink—The Graveyard Shift. Past keywords…guns, ammunition, dead bodies, rigor mortis, police, bad guys, terrorists….

Well, being the clever detective that I am, I immediately figured out the guy was spying on my website. Another glance down the page and I discovered my Verizon cell number. And then I saw credit card activity, email addresses, passwords, and NSA… That’s the National Security Agency. The Feds. I had to look away because this was making me ill. Not only was the guy spying on my website, he’d been monitoring my every move, which explained the bump I heard on the front porch last night (he was probably outside our windows, peering in to count the number of blueberries I’d placed on top of my 8pm snack of yogurt and fresh fruit).

I knew I had nothing to hide, but the thought of government computer geek secret agents watching me as I go about my daily business is a bit troubling to say the least. I started to think…hard. Were they also monitoring my water usage. Are they counting my flushes? How about watching me in the shower? Do I use too much shampoo? Can they read my mind? Am I a soap-waster?

Do the NSA super-secret squirrels know about the piece of chocolate I ate yesterday. I know it’s against doctor’s orders, but it was calling my name. After all, it was that delicious dark chocolate from Trader Joes that I like so much.

You know, I’m all for keeping U.S. citizens safe, and I’m willing to go the extra mile to do so. But we already have TSA agents feeling up old ladies and pawing through our unmentionables. We’ve been forced to become the timid and submissive air traveler who cannot complain about crappy service out of fear of being booted off a flight or being placed on a no-fly list. We have cameras at every street corner, on nearly every telephone pole, spy drones that look like hummingbirds, and satellite photography that’s so powerful it can zoom in on the hair on a gnat’s rear end. We’re told what and how much to eat, and our favorite TV shows are interrupted so someone can tell us this is all for our own good.

Instead of watching hard-working, honest Americans, how about finding out why it is that we’re forced to pay crazy-high taxes so politicians and the IRS can spend the money on lavish parties, conventions, trips, and gifts for themselves. The government spends our money like there’s a never-ending supply of the stuff (Their philosophy…don’t worry, if we run out of cash we’ll simply raise taxes on the people who make less than we do).

And then there are things like this that really burn my biscuits…

– $30 million spent on catfish inspections by two separate agencies, while Homeland Security spent $66 million to do the same thing on the same catfish. Why not hire some of those noodlers we see on TV? Those folks make a weekend out of playing in muddy water, reaching their ham-hock size hands beneath stumps and logs to retrieve catfish the size of small rhino’s. And they do it for free, and I’ll bet they know just as much if not more about catfish than the average guv’ment man or woman.

– The military spends more than $1 billion each year on 159 contractors that translate foreign languages. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy assorted copies of Rosetta Stone and distribute them to some of the catfish-counters who might then have a real job?

– The National Technical Information Service sells reports to other federal agencies, 75% of which can be found online for FREE!

And, of course, there are the pocket change items, like the $90,000 spent to upgrade security at a spring training camp for professional baseball players.

So I have an excellent idea, U.S. government spy-on-me-folks, how about turning the camera lenses around and let the citizens watch you guys for a change. Then again, I don’t think I want to see what you guys do behind closed doors. It’s already bad enough seeing what’s made public.


26 replies
  1. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I think we’re becoming a bit redundant now, so let’s call it quits and start over on the next post. I’ll end by saying this to Charlotte. Civil disobedience and announcing to the world government secrets that relate to our country’s security are nowhere near the same thing. In fact, the two are not even in the same universe.

    Civil disobedience is to try and force our officials to see the will and way of the people. It’s an attempt to clean our own house and it’s between Americans. What Snowden and Manning have done is to provide vital U.S. tactics, techniques, and secrets to other countries that wish to harm all Americans. Huge, huge, huge difference.

    I don’t know how Snowden could’ve gotten his message out in a way that would’ve been legal, or that didn’t put information in the wrong hands. Had there been a way to keep it just in the ears and eyes of Americans, that might have been a bit more tolerable, but that’s not what he did.

    Actually, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Obama administration, challenging the constitutionality of the phone surveillance. So, had Snowden gone to the ACLU, spilled his guts and had them file the suit without informing the entire world, well, that might have been the right way to do this. That’s actually a form of civil disobedience, right?

  2. charlotte mann
    charlotte mann says:

    Lee, just two questions. How else were we to find out what our government is up to other than Snowden’s act of releasing the information? And if we all were to follow all laws, no matter how heinous, how could we change them? Isn’t civil disobedience sometimes necessary?

  3. SZ
    SZ says:

    Ok, either I am really not paying attention or maybe this is legit question. I did know there was a big caboo with Verizon, I have them as well, how do you know when or that they were looking at your emails, passwords . . .

    Are you super spy or do they leave a “trail” that is either visible or you can check for ?

  4. Geoff Lin
    Geoff Lin says:

    Quite unsettling on the Russia or China bit. Powerful forces are are play for sure. History often reveals that these powerful forces operate on “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” mentality. Of course that’s until that “friendship” loses it’s meaningful efficacy. I’m not defending nor attacking Snowden. Just mentioning that if he wanted more political neutrality, he should have ran to Switzerland or Sweden OR even some country that doesn’t have extradition laws. The main point is that other political rivals like China or Russia will pander to know what he knows about how we as Americans conduct business as far as security and international affairs are concerned. The fact that he’s a contractor makes no difference as since he’s vetted by the Office of Personnel Management to have a TS clearance, he’s in the know.

    A dicey game…

  5. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Absolutely true, Bud, but it still doesn’t negate the fact that when laws, until they are indeed changed, must be followed or we suffer the consequences if we elect not to do so. Simply saying and believing a law is unjust won’t make the handcuffs and prison time go away.

    Snowden picked this battle and violated some serious laws when he did. He knew what he did was wrong and absconded. He didn’t bother to stick around to fight. Instead, he threw a sucker punch and ran to hide behind the Chinese. Can’t say that I blame him for tucking tail and running, though.

    Anyway, do I think our government is perfect? Hell no. Far from it and getting worse every day. But how bad would our lives become if we closed our eyes while the people in charge of war and defense plans sold or gave away our every move?

    I certainly do not like this garbage of spying on innocent American citizens while using the excuse of “We’re doing it for your safety.” But we absolutely cannot allow the people in charge of the secret plans to simply give them away whenever they feel like it and to whomever they choose.

    There’s got to be a better way to reign in our out of control government, but exposing our top secrets is certainly not it. I’d love to see a clean sweep of the politicians, starting over with a totally empty Washington. The government we have now is beyond repair. It doesn’t work. One person has no clue what the other is doing, and they try to make everything right by tossing mountains of cash at the problems.

    At a glance, it sure looks as if a handful of politicians use our government as their personal play toy and piggy bank.

    What I don’t understand is this…why do we not see the people who support breaking the laws to make things “right” running for office, the place where they could actually, maybe, perhaps, do so some good. I could blog about change all day long but it’ll never do any good. Not a bit.

    By the way, I understand Russia may offer Snowden asylum. The implications there are a bit unsettling. How much does Snowden know that he could turn over to Russia and/or China?

  6. Sally
    Sally says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth but said them better. I just posted this same rant with other words, last night.

    It is a topic that has me running for the origami instructions for tin foil hats.

    The link is http://sallyfranklinchristie.com/wp/2013/06/i-am-just-sayin/

    I also want to add Lee that I did not intend to take your category “I’m Just Sayin'” when I titled my post.

    What is it they say, Great Minds Think Alike? I’m flattered but you did say it better.


  7. Bud
    Bud says:

    It was a silly little taxation issue, like lots of today’s squabbles, but the incarcerated Thoreau’s question to Emerson, “Waldo, why are you not here?”, still has resonance. Of course we pick and choose which laws we obey. The underground railroad kept on facilitating the flight of property, Ghandi declined to obey the law giving the British a monopoly on salt production in India, Rosa Parks kept her seat, civil rights marchers have kept marching despite the water canons and dogs of duly constituted authority.

    Usually in a democracy laws can be changed peacefully, petitions and letters to lawmakers and publication of broadsheets or blogs. But not always. When someone chooses to cross that line the outcome can be horrible and stupid, like Waco, or uplifting, like the kids who opened the lunch-counters in Woolworths.

    We will pay a price, and we must choose our battles carefully and wisely, but absolutely there are times when not obeying the law is the right thing to do. I’m not sure god is god, but I am sure government is not god.

  8. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    The thing is…both Manning and Snowden violated federal law when they disclosed secret government information. And it doesn’t matter that Snowden was an employee of a private firm. When that company signed on to do top secret work and their employees were given security clearances, they became an arm of the government and are subject to the same rules and regulations governing federal employees. Believe me, I’m quite familiar with how this works, and I’ll leave it at that.

    At the very least, Snowden is guilty of Gathering, Transmitting, or Losing Defense Information, a crime that carries up to a 10 year sentence.

    With that said, sure, I’m pleased at knowing the details he released, which we may never have known if he hadn’t. However, just because many people like what he did doesn’t make it right or legal. For example, I wasn’t disappointed that a prison inmate killed Jeffery Dahmer. As they say, some folks just need killing, but that doesn’t mean the murder was okay with the legal system. Dahmer’s killer still committed murder.

    We can’t pick and choose which laws we want to obey and which we decide we don’t like so, “What the hell, I choose not to follow that one.” It just doesn’t work that way. It can’t work that way. Are there laws I don’t like? As a winking politician says, “You betcha’. But I know if I violate those laws I’ll be arrested and punished accordingly. So I follow them or avoid situations where I’ll be forced to choose between what I think is right and what the law says I must do.

    Bob – Sure he left because he knew he was breaking the law. Yes he left because he feared retribution. And he left the country because he doesn’t want to spend even one minute in a federal prison.

  9. charlotte mann
    charlotte mann says:

    As one who is old enough to remember the Nazi situation, I favor doing what is ethically correct/necessary over what is “legal.” The definition of each of these is indeed relative, but… well, my feeling is that in the NSA case, what Snowden did is ethically correct and what the NSA is doing is not strictly speaking legal. But the laws have been recently rewritten to make it appear to be legal. My personal feeling on Manning’s case is that what he did is not legal in any sense of the term, but probably morally right. We The People need to know what is going on in order to have a functioning democracy (whether such knowing is legal or not.)

  10. Bob Mueller
    Bob Mueller says:

    Is it a crime to disclose an illegal act that’s being committed by a government agency?

    Did he leave because he knew he was breaking the law, or because he feared retribution? He’s said “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.” Interesting interview here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance and here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-why

  11. Bud
    Bud says:

    If the recently breaking details prove true, what tipped Snowden into his announcement was the power that he personally had, on nobody’s say so but his own, to dig into the contents of anyone’s emails / web history / phone calls. It wasn’t just meta-data that was available to him.

    It’s a fairly rare thing for somebody to surrender power. He handed back the x-ray goggles, saying I shouldn’t have these.

    He is a civilian employee of a private company, part of our current out-sourced-to-corporations governing system. His choice may have been a bad one, a stupid one even, personally, but it was courageous and honorable, from what I have read and heard.

    If he thought he might be treated like Corporal Manning (whose crime was it, incidentally, that a Corporal had access to a million highly classified documents?), being kept naked in solitary confinment for a year or two, I think the move to Hong Kong makes perfect sense (except he’ll probably be extradited).

    Is it a crime to embarass the government? Treason involves two elements: harm to the country, and an intent to cause harm. On the first: is the harm from the disclosure or from what was disclosed, the actions of the NSA? On the second, what movitation did he have, if not what he has said? Just the desire to ruin his career, put his family at risk, and probably spend decades in a Federal prison?

  12. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Larkin – The entire situation reeks, and I think we are due some answers…and a lot of new politicians on both sides of the aisle.

    Still, Snowden committed a crime. We can’t simply let that go because what he did “needed doing.”

  13. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    True, Bob. Manning’s crimes probably caused worse results, while Snowden blew the lid off government secrets that are possibly unconstitutional. Still, the method used by Snowden was no less criminal than Manning’s. And he knew he was breaking the law which is why he fled the U.S. and is seeking protection from prosecution from other countries.

  14. Larkin
    Larkin says:

    I’m with Bob. Manning is a little creep who dumped docs enmasse because he was having a bad biorhythm day or something. Snowden revealed a program and some of the powers of the program, but not anything that most people didn’t already know or suspect. I’m glad it’s getting some airplay.

    Combine the NSA with the IRS’s targeting of folks who could possibly shave votes off Obama’s reelection, and the whole scenario gets real scary real fast.

    I suppose now the Feds will be scanning for posts containing the words “Obama” and “shave.” It’s okay. I’ve med the Feds up close, and I know their weaknesses.

    You wrote a great post, Lee.

  15. Bob Mueller
    Bob Mueller says:

    I think Manning is more criminal than Snowden. Snowden just disclosed the program, which should indeed be known. He didn’t disclose any of the data that’s collected, only the fact that it was being collected. I think the collection is unconstitutional.

    Manning actually released documents, copies of which were found in various raids in Afghanistan. That rises to traitorous conduct in my book.

    The conduct of the NSA nears traitorous, especially when you consider what they’ve done to CEOs who denied their demands. See https://mailman.stanford.edu/pipermail/liberationtech/2013-June/008815.html

  16. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Jonathan – I agree about the whistleblower. He committed an extremely serious offense and should be prosecuted for it. I think he’s a traitor. Still, it doesn’t change my mind about what is possibly over-reaching and delving into what should be private areas of law-abiding citizens. I’m all for surveillance on people/terrorists who want to or are about to harm the U.S. and its people, but not on U.S. citizens who are in no way a threat to anyone.

  17. Geoff Mehl
    Geoff Mehl says:

    My Google searches must surely have the spooks excited. Weapons, munitions, blast effects, kidnapping CIA people, aircraft theft, faking aircraft flight plans, money laundering techniques, and of course hacking mainframe computers … wait, I think I see some black SUVs pulling into my driveway right now…

  18. Jonathan Quist
    Jonathan Quist says:

    I’ve got very mixed feelings about this.

    Yeah, the level of surveillance makes the most over-the-top Cold War era spy story seem like The Hardy Boys. It’s creepy.

    But we’ve known, or at least suspected for a long time, that the NSA was doing this. They’ve had the legal right to eavesdrop on all communications between any U.S. citizen and any alien for decades.

    But based on what I heard from a former co-worker, who once worked directly for the NSA, the “whistleblower” in all this violated a pretty serious nondisclosure agreement, possibly even a loyalty oath. Some could claim, possibly legitimately, that he has committed treason.

    I guess it’ll be a while before history determines whether he’s traitor or patriot.

  19. Gayle Bartos-Pool
    Gayle Bartos-Pool says:

    Maybe the NSA can search the phone records of these folks at the IRS and in Washington, D.C. and see who they were talking to before all this started. They have the records.

  20. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Imagine what my inbox looks like. I receive questions from people all over the world, about a huge variety of topics from poisoning to, well, I’m now too scared to say publicly. Some I can’t and don’t answer, but that doesn’t stop the messages from coming to me.

    I’m beginning to think the aluminum foil hats aren’t such a bad idea after all. At least our thoughts could be kept private.

  21. charlotte mann
    charlotte mann says:

    Yeah, I cringe every time I Google search for my books: state of the art uranium prospecting methods, taser technology, and now eco-activists! It’s bad enough that my phone line crackles and my laptop often crawls to a molasses ooze, but I now fear for my poor editor who undoubtedly is drawn into this web of search and meta-search. I dearly hope my editor’s phone and computer stay safe.

  22. Geoff Lin
    Geoff Lin says:

    Well said, Lee. I’m proud to have served since 9/11. However, I also left the military and the intel community for a reason. Such an overarching inefficient bureaucracy with limitless access to an army of lawyers is frightening to me.

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