I once worked as IT Manager at a sales company whose owner felt instilling paranoia in his sales force contributed to increased productivity (It is possible, however, in my opinion, that he was just a sadistic jerk). To this end he inculcated the belief among his employees that all their email was read by the IT department. My predecessor, being a loyal employee (it is possible, however, in my opinion, that he was just a passive aggressive jerk who hated the sales staff), assured the salespeople that yes, their email was being read.
It took me about a week on the job to figure out that the other employees thought that one of the major duties of my department was reviewing the 2000 or so emails they sent and received each day. After hearing “I know you read all our email, so I wanted to tell you that I had no idea my friend was sending me”¦” for the umpteenth time I pointed out the obvious: It was a physical impossibility for my staff and I to read 2000 emails a day, and, even if we could, the sheer dullness of their content would keep us from doing so. “Look,” I said, “you guys just aren’t very interesting.” I think for some of them the thought that they were uninteresting was worse than the thought that their emails were being read. Their egos could simply not accept their insignificance. I never did convince all of them that their emails were not being read.
The Senate is currently working on a reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In one of the rare instances in which they were not attempting to prove their name oxymoronic the Senate Intelligence Committee 12 -2 passed out a version that included two key components: Protection for communications providers that cooperated with our intelligence services in the form of concealment of their identities and retroactive and future civil and criminal immunity for cooperation with our intelligence and law enforcement services following 9-11 and retroactive civil and criminal immunity for the intelligence and law enforcement services who used the information provided to catch terrorists. The Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, always looking for new ways to cripple our intelligence and law enforcement services and to enrich trial lawyers saw a golden opportunity to do both at the same time and removed those provisions from the bill that was sent to the floor. Fortunately this bill failed to pass. Why are these provisions important? Simple — first, if companies are going to get sued for millions of dollars every time they cooperate with the feds, they’re not going to cooperate with the feds. Second, during the legal process there is something known as discovery, in which each side has to provide information to the other side. In the case of a lawsuit against a communications provider or the government by terrorists or terrorist friendly entities like the ACLU, this means the terrorists attorneys can ask for, and the communications company or the government must provide, intimate details of how they obtained the information that led them to the belief that the terrorist was a terrorist including all the human and technological assets and processes used. In other words we’d have to give the terrorists all the information they need to make it infinitely harder for us to catch them in the future. The lunatic fringe, of course, is up in arms over the thought that our intelligence and law enforcement services might actually be able to do their jobs and that patriotic companies will be able to help them without buying some bloodsucking trial lawyer a new vacation home. Their argument is the same old song — these updates to FISA will let government spy on anyone and everyone for no reason – ignoring the fact that there are restrictions built into the bill that put strict limits on how information may be gathered and used. It is here that I will indulge in a little passive aggressive sadism of my own by revealing the bitter truth to all the mentally deficient, underachieving, parents’ basement dwelling public access TV hosts and bloggers and assorted self-described “activists”: Even if the government could read all you emails, listen to all your phone calls and install 17 hidden cameras in your parents’ basement, they wouldn’t. You are unimportant. Nobody cares about you or what you think, say or write, least of all the feds – they’re busy trying to catch bad guys who want to kill all Americans – including you. I realize this may be a tremendous blow for some of you whose only hope for significance is the delusion that there is a government file on you somewhere other than the IRS, the Social Security Administration and the unemployment office, but that’s the way it is.