Wiretapping

Our fearless leader President George W. Bush has taken it upon himself to blow his nose with the US Constitution yet again and demand that the NSA perform unwarranted wiretaps of phones, email, and other forms of communication to suspected terrorists. Many people are angered by this claiming that it is an illegal invasion of our privacy and the President should not have the authority to authorize this agenda. But many people say that it is in America's best interest to limit our rights to have a better chance at putting potentially harmful people in prison. Many people still don't even know that it's happening.

When I first heard about the call for wiretapping without a warrant I expected that it would be shot down. Then I remembered that this was a government that allowed the Patriot Act, so I'm not that shocked that the government is allowing it. I am fully against these wiretaps, but many people I talk to about them say, "What's the big deal? They're meant to stop terrorists!"

I ask you, what is a terrorist? Has president Bush ever given us anything more than a vague definition as to what a terrorist is? Will he ever be exact? Even more so, he isn't targeting terrorists, he is targeting suspected terrorists. A potential terrorist can include everyone, thus everyone may be watched.

"But if they have to sift through every phone call and email in America how will they ever be able to pin point criminals?" is a common response. True, with the millions and millions of calls, email, text messages, etc. each day it seems highly unlikely that a person can monitor them all and figure out who is breaking the law. But it doesn't have to be people who listen to your calls anymore.

Analog recognition software has matured greatly in the last two decades. Computers are able to quickly convert the spoken word into text that is computer searchable. Every call in US could be recorded, converted to text, and then searched for patterns that resemble criminal activity. It's even easier for email, chatting, or text messaging. If you think that that is a little far fetched you're living in the past. This type of software is already available for the home user. To think that we don't have the ability to monitor every phone call and email, or to think that we won't have the ability soon is to seriously underestimate technology.

But then people tell me, "So what if the government reads the email to my mother, I don't do anything illegal, so who cares?" This is where the lie is made. Can anyone truthfully say that you have never broken a law? I don't know anyone who has never exceeded the speed limit, never spit on the sidewalk, never threw a cigarette butt out the window, or any other minor infraction. A lot of times people break the law and they don't even know it because they don't know the local laws very well. Most people don't talk about breaking the law in emails or on the phone, but every so often it can slip. And when it does, the government can know.

Could the government start cracking down on every underage teenager who uses the Internet to plan for a kegger? Yes. Are they going to? Doubtful, but then I might be overestimating the respect that our government gives our privacy.

Here's a question to ask yourself. When the terrorists are caught, and everything is back to normal, do you think the government will stop the wiretaps? Before you answer that, try this one. Have we ever been a country without terrorists? There has always been a threat to our country, and there always will be. There is nothing special about our recent times. Yes, we're at war, our country has been in and out of wars since its birth. Yes, we have terrorist coming from other countries, but we have them born here (do Timothy McVeigh and the Ted Kaczynski ring any bells?). When will it stop?

Given the amount of acceptance that the public has given the wiretappings, I wouldn't be that surprised if the wire tapping stays around for good. When do we draw the line? Will we let them read our letters, put cameras in our homes, or tracking devices on our cars?