So Edward Snowden now tells us that he was not just a computer administrator but also a spy – not only for the NSA, but also the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. I’m sure that will be followed up by his claim to the Heisman Trophy, how he was the inspiration for Mother Teresa and his groundbreaking work in neurosurgery. Not too shabby for a guy who never even graduated from high school.
It got me thinking – we all love James Bond, but that’s because he’s a good guy and therefore on our side. On the other hand, the idea of someone listening in on our telephone calls is just plain creepy. (Although those of us old enough to remember party lines know that an extra listener was to be expected.) So what does it really mean?
There are 7.1 billion people in the world, 317 million in the United States. There are almost 328 million cell phones in the U.S. – more phones than people. If each phone is used for one hour a month, which every parent with teenagers knows is ridiculously low, then each year there would be almost 4 billion hours of phone conversations. This would require nearly 2 million full time intelligence employees to keep up with the phone calls, ignoring e-mails, internet browsing, traffic cameras, black helicopters, drones, and other spy stuff.
I think that even if phone conversations were routinely monitored into, most of us would get lost in the clutter. Sorry, but your selfie just isn’t that interesting.
On the other hand, people who buy chemicals that just happen to be used for making bombs, or send fan mail to known terrorists; people who want to learn to fly but aren’t interested in learning to land just might be interesting enough to give a listen.
Personally, I think that’s a good thing.
Very smart post, Steve. You’re right: It’s the idea, the thought of it all–the “seed” that Snowden planted in our minds that has caused so much mistrust. Perception is as real as what is really real. It’s like counterfeit money getting into our economy: Can we imagine if everyone did not trust and had to check every $5, $10, or $20 dollar bill because we all thought they were counterfeit?
You’re also right that it would be a good thing for us to be aware…but not paranoid. We must remember the best of people who comprise the best of communities can readily turn into mobs. And that’s all we need in America at this time…more division rather than more decency and civility.