Everybody’s doing it, but nobody does it quite like us. I’m talking, of course, about America’s insatiable penchant for scarfing up information from tapped telephones and redirected emails around the world. Le Monde reported, for example, that in a single month the U.S. collected data from 70 million French phones. And that’s just France. And yet, it was only 84 ago that Secretary of State Henry Stimson shut down the government’s cryptanalytic office with the words, "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail." Now we are told we should have no expectations of privacy because if the government isn’t reading our mail, Google is.
Still, yesterday’s revelations that the National Security Agency had tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal cellphone has Europe seething, even though this is hardly a novel practice there. The most famous episode was the 1989 bugging that overheard Prince Charles telling Camilla Parker Bowles he wanted to be reincarnated as her tampon. It’s important to know these things.
While the U.S. government offers fumbling explanations for spying on its foreign friends – not to mention its own citizens – it sees little irony in its indictment of Edward Snowden for espionage. And Senator Diane Feinstein has urged that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange be “prosecuted under the Espionage Act.”
As for me, the final damage from the computer crash I reported last week is the permanent loss of seven months of files that contain pretty much my entire life. Not to worry, I have a call in to the NSA.