by Dianne Hermann (Copyright 2013)
I, along with 300 million of my closest friends, had my Verizon cell phone records unceremoniously handed over to the government by Verizon. Girded with my Fourth Amendment assurances, I did what any responsible American citizen would do – I called my cell phone company and lodged an official complaint and sat back and felt much better.
But I wanted to share the good news of the Constitutional protections with my Missouri Senators, so I emailed both Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Roy Blount. Actually, I was looking for a stick to whack some heads, but I kept my cool and expressed my outrage as calmly as I could.
And miracle of miracles, I actually received email replies from both of them! Senator Blount was the first to respond and he said he was concerned by the NSA “leaks.” I think the thing that concerned him most was that somebody had spilled the beans and put our national security at risk. But he went on to assure me that current U.S. law “strictly prohibits warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens” and any request requires approval by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court judge. That made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I was at the edge of ecstasy when he also informed me that irrelevant data including phone logs are destroyed after five years. Great! Only four and three-quarter years to go! All in all, it was a rather nice form letter. I know it was a form letter because it was written in two different sized fonts. Gotta love that cut and paste feature.
Senator McCaskill responded five days later because she is obviously busier than Senator Blount. She began by giving me a history lesson about the FISA. She also cited the 30-year-old FISA rules that were updated in 2008. The update apparently requires judicial approval for wiretapping or searches to access records. I guess that’s what they mean by “bi-partisan” when your Democrat senator and your Republican senator both have the same talking points.
Now I feel a whole lot better. All that intelligence gathering is just one of the tools that keeps me safe from terrorists. Now if only all the other Verizon cell phone customers were terrorists, we’d finally have a federal program that really worked.
But unlike Blount, however, McCaskill blamed the British newspaper “The Guardian” for my predicament. She alluded to the fact that the NSA “confirmed the existence” of the program. Is that code for they got busted?
And who would have known that the Senate has a Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight? Not only that, but my senator, Claire McCaskill, informed me that, as Chairman of that subcommittee, she co-chaired a hearing examining the vetting process used for hiring federal employees and contractors who have access to sensitive information. The real concern, as she sees it, is not the honorable American citizenry who use Verizon cell phones, but the government employees hired to protect our personal information after they gather all that data from those cell phones.
So, not only do our politicians listen to us when we petition them, but they even email back in various fonts they’ve cut and pasted. Now everything is clear to me. I can’t be mad at McCaskill and Blount because they feel my pain. And Verizon’s off the hook. And I can’t be upset with the NSA because, after all, they confirmed the existence of the problem. I can’t be mad at Edward Snowden for leaking the story because he’s just one of those government employees my senators are concerned about.
I guess Senator Claire McCaskill’s right. It’s all that “Guardian” newspaper’s fault. Damn those foreign newspapers!