Thursday, May 11, 2006

Existential Eavesdropping

During 2000-2003, I spent a lot of time on the phone to my boyfriend in France: about an hour a day. It was expensive no matter what international plan I used, but I was in love. We talked about politics a lot, in between our cooing, spats, and faltering attempts at sexchats. He was absolutely livid about what we both saw as a mendacious run-up to a US invasion of Iraq, and, you know what? I wasn't so thrilled about it myself, even though I had a very different understanding of it than he did. Because we had somewhat different views, we talked a great deal about terrorism, Bush, war, and other keywords that would get us tagged by your average NSA filtering program.

I remember one conversation rather specifically. He was telling me about a dream he'd had about killing Bush to spare the world the Iraq invasion. It was just a dream, and he was just telling me, his girlfriend, about his anxieties and how the dream was working them out, and I was worrying about who might be listening in on the line.

He was venting, thinking, confessing, and my reply was "Please be careful what you say."

I already knew then that cross-national communications were often tapped--particularly when "problematic" ideas or keywords came up. I tried to convince the most important person then in my life to circumlocute about drugs (in particular) and foreign policy (in the vituperative).

Living that way made me feel much more paranoid. Which is not to say that it wasn't necessary.

So. If you're comfortable that people with overseas friends, family, or lovers should feel that way, I invite you to check out this article; what do you think when the same rules apply inside the US?


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