Jay Leno had a good line the other night. ““We wanted a president that listens to all Americans – now we have one.”
“They closed the gift shop at the White House today,” he said, “and opened a Verizon store.”
For those of you who have been in a coma or too busy keeping up with the Kardashians, Leno was talking about how the National Security Agency is spying on our phone records (and e-mail accounts). “This has caused a panic among civil libertarians, constitutional scholars and cheating husbands everywhere.” Rim shot!
“I mean what’s going on?” Leno wondered. “The White House has looked into our phone records, checking our computers, monitoring our e-mails. When did the government suddenly become our psycho ex-girlfriend? When did that happen?”
And the big finish: “You know, I’ll tell you, if Obama wants to put this snooping thing to good use, how about spying on the IRS next time they throw a $4 million party. Why don’t you do that one?”
Jokes aside, despite the fact that I don’t want the government spying on us without a good reason, I’m not getting all worked up over this. The NSA is keeping watch on 3 billion of our phone calls – a day. The civil libertarian in me says I should be worried. But I checked my blood pressure and it’s not rising. Fighting terrorism, after all, isn’t like going after litterbugs. The government has to balance security with privacy. President Obama is right: You can’t have 100 percent of both with no inconvenience. So if they’re snooping on us, I”m not thrilled, but I’ll figure out a way to survive.
And the president is also right when he says it’s about trust, about how we have to trust that our government is looking out for us, that it’s only concern is going after the bad guys. Trust is important. Telling the truth matters. Now we get to the part that really makes me nervous.
In testimony to Congress, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said that the agency is not targeting Tea Party-related groups for their politics.
That’s not true.
Under oath, Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Judiciary Committee: “In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material: This is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.”
Really? This is the same Eric Holder who personally signed a petition for a warrant against Fox News reporter James Rosen, saying he might be a “co-conspirator” in violation of the Espionage Act.
Susan Rice went on five Sunday news programs and said an anti-Muslim video was behind the mayhem in Benghazi.
I don’t think so.
Then Jay Carney said the White House had nothing to do with scrubbing terrorism from the Benghazi talking points. Later it came out that the White House had a lot to do with it.
And at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on March 12 of this year, Senator Ron Wyden asked this question of James Clapper, the director of national intelligence: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper responded: “No, sir.”
Roller derby is more honest than this administration.
I don’t think the National Security Agency needs to see hundreds of millions of phone records and e-mails to catch terrorists. But, as I say, you can’t have total privacy in a world occupied by people who want to blow us up.
So I have no problem if the NSA takes a close look at the guy who is making 17 phone calls a week to the al Qaeda Boys Club in Yemen. But I’m worried that our government may also be spying on the American who makes “too many” phone calls to the Republican National Committee.
Paranoid? Let’s give Jay Leno the final say on that:
“Actually, President Obama clarified the situation today. He said no one is listening to your phone calls. The president said it’s not what the program is all about. You know, like the IRS isn’t about targeting certain political groups. That’s not what it’s about!”