“As a matter of fact, you know, I have felt that my own communications were probably monitored.” That’s what former President Jimmy Carter told CNN today. He added that if he wants to write a world leader, he sends it on paper through the post office. When I heard that, I had two thoughts. First: my God, even a former president has to worry about this nonsense! Second: my God, now the government is going to monitor his mail! But then I thought: no!
To a very large extent, the government listens to our phone calls and reads our email simply because it can. It’s like the old joke about why a dog licks his balls. But a better example of it is the video store. In the old days of video stores, getting an account was slightly more complicated than becoming a foster parent. Their applications requested ridiculous amounts of information including social security numbers and drivers license numbers. Because I’m a pliant person, I always provided this information. But then I got married to a privacy freak and she absolutely refused.
That’s when I found out that some things. First, the video stores didn’t check the accuracy of the information. Second, they didn’t do anything with the information other than put it into their databases. Third, they didn’t care if you gave them the information. They were just collecting it because they could. As long as it didn’t cost them anything, it was great. But the thought that it might cost a single video rental was not worth it.
As a result of this, I suspect that the government will not go after Carter’s mail. After all, they can’t think he is doing anything wrong. Going after his mail would take effort whereas tapping his email just requires pushing a button. But who knows? Carter also mentioned that President Obama never requests his advice on foreign affairs. He thinks this is because of his position on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Carter is very even handed about that and in modern American politics, everyone is supposed to just pretend that the Israelis are always acting morally and the Palestinians are just a bunch of terrorists.
My newest concern is the spy fly. This is a drone the size of a fly. I am sure that they have these because I’m sure that my tech partner and I could make one. Maybe it would be more the size of a moth, but if we could do that, the government could do a fly. And that means that they can spy on us at any time. Carter’s letter might be safe, but the fly could record him as he writes it. The only thing is that the government would have to have agents within a couple of blocks. So that gets back to the government having to make an effort. So that’s something. But still, a government that spies on ex-presidents is not free, open, or democratic.