What you can’t say on the telephone
My best friend in Japan and I have heard it said - and we believe it - that the American National Security Agency, or NSA, has the ability to listen in to every telephone call made on planet Earth, either by land line or satellite transmission, and that the agency proactively does exactly that in the name of American national security. It listens in by voice recognition scanning for key words in more languages than just English - words like Osama Bin Laden, assassination, President, etc. Messages containing those words are red-flagged for closer scrutiny. (Actually, maybe my friend heard it from me and was persuaded by a combination of my natural charm, my plausible rhetoric, and my Old Spice after shave.)
We regularly throw out words like Al Gore and cocaine shipment, daring the American government to do anything about it.
So now, whenever we speak on the phone (which is regularly) we can’t help ourselves and in giddy exuberance we throw out words like Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaida, assassination, Taliban, President Bush, Castro, Chavez, Kim Jong Il, cocaine shipment, the grassy knoll, Al Gore, dirty bomb, Area 51, child porn, bestiality, Straits of Hormuz, Jihad, imperialist dogs, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Charles Manson, Iran, hijack, nuclear fuel, North Korea, etc., daring the American government to do anything about it. Maybe we’re fools, or maybe not. But no one can deny us our fun.
I must wonder, then, what if any implications there will be if/when either of us travels to the United Sates or transits through an American airport. As for myself, I already know that I have a Secret Service file because of my periodic correspondence with the White House. But in addition to that, what, if anything, would happen to me if a scan of my Canadian passport by American Customs agents brings up not just my Secret Service record on the agent’s computer screen, but an NSA detain-and-question order. I don’t want to find out, and I don’t want to transit through an American airport. The possibility of torture and long-term detention without charge or legal counsel are too high. I think the United States is arguably the worst country in the world, and whenever I return home for holidays in Canada I gladly pay the higher prices of Air Canada and take the direct flight to avoid the U.S.
My friend is looking forward to visiting Hawaii some time in the near future with his Japanese wife, so I am waiting to see how that goes for him so that I can apply his experience to my own expectations.