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According to a recent ABC News report, the U.S. government is listening to phone calls of private citizens.

I’m sure a lot of people were red-faced when ABC News reported recently that employees of the top-secret National Security Agency (NSA) were listening in on phone conversations of average Americans and passing “cuts” of the juicy ones around to each other’s computer. By “juicy”, of course, I mean conversations that involved sexual content.
Higher-ups at the NSA, for one, are probably blushing beet-red to think that some of their staff were engaging in such an invasion of privacy. After all, General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA, testified that the agency was not listening to private phone conversations of ordinary Americans, only people who may have some connection to terrorism.

Not true, according to the ABC News report. Two employees of the NSA told ABC News that they routinely listened in on telephone conversations of Americans who were living in the Middle East, including military people stationed in Iraq. Not only that, but many of the people being monitored were private citizens, who were not working for the U.S. government. When an NSA operative found a particularly steamy conversation, like a couple engaging in “pillow talk”, or “phone sex”, he or she would alert co-workers and the conversation would be played on multiple NSA computers.

I had a “crazy uncle” years ago who was convinced the government was listening to him through receivers in his dental fillings. He was a diagnosed schizophrenic, and nobody in my family took him seriously, but these days I wonder if he wasn’t on to something. To think that there are people sitting in a building somewhere in Georgia who are listening to a man in the Middle East talking dirty to his girlfriend in the U.S. is not only creepy, it’s downright insane. Where is the outrage about such an invasion of privacy? I worry that people these days have become so jaded about privacy issues that they don’t even care anymore when something as blatantly voyeuristic as this occurs. It’s not just the government; there are Web sites now where you can type somebody’s name and ZIP code in and get reams of personal info about them, including any legal trouble they’ve had (all for a fee, of course). Certain stores now ask for your phone number when you make a purchase, and that information goes into a database that marketers can look at to build a profile of you from your purchases.

Of course, marketers who are tracking your purchases are small potatoes compared to a government that’s listening in to your phone conversations. I realize that the phone calls in question were to or from the Middle East, but who’s to say the NSA isn’t also listening in on local U.S. calls? It’s not such a stretch to think that they could justify domestic phone calls from or to certain people as worth monitoring for terrorist activity. And if they went over the line and listened to private citizens in the Middle East, well, you can see how they could easily do the same thing for private citizens in Middle America. The next time you make a phone call to your spouse, lover, or friend and you want to say something a little kinky, will you squelch that desire in case there’s somebody in a basement listening in?
It could happen. Which makes me think my uncle wasn’t so crazy after all.