Why We Don't Mind Uncle Sam Tapping Our Phones

07/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Thanks to some savvy maneuvering to forestall the inevitable, Congress won't be voting on the new-and-approved Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) until after the July 4th holiday. I guess it makes more sense to celebrate our freedom from government tyranny and interference before we give them the okay to monitor our private conversations. No one wants to be a party pooper.


Meanwhile, the job outlook looks bright for people with the following skills:

* Can sit with headphones on for long periods of time
* Can speak multiple languages
* Can tell the difference between "Oh, Sam, I wish you were here!" and "Hey Osama, long time no hear!"

It also looks good for telecom giants like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, who will likely get immunity for partnering with the government. It makes me uncomfortable to think that Uncle Sam is in bed with Ma Bell. Well, more like grossed out. That "Can You Hear Me Now?" guy is probably sandwiched between them.

Some politicians and privacy advocates are crying foul, but surveys show that Americans, by and large, aren't too concerned about the government tapping in. (Although these reports are hotly contested). We may be bugged, but we're not all that bothered. Why?

For one thing, Americans know the banalities of our daily conversation would wear down the survival instincts of even the most hardened terrorists. I suggest the government send tapes of teenagers' phone chats directly to our secret interrogation prisons around the world. After hours of it, I imagine a terrorist saying, "Like, this is mad torture! I'll spill it all, just get me outta here, yo!" It's gotta be more effective than womens' underwear.

Gaining access to strangers' private lives is also something we take for granted. Tabloids scream at us with the intimate details of celebrity dalliances, break-ups, breakdowns, rehab trips, and incarcerations...and that's just Amy Winehouse. Blogs hit us up with off-the-record remarks and hearsay. Dr. Phil gives us full access to the perverted lives of our neighbors. The Smoking Gun shares detailed police reports about both celebrities and common folk.

Ride a commuter train and you'll learn all sorts of interesting things about the loud guy on a cell phone two rows behind you, shouting details about his bankruptcy, how much he hates his boss, and his urological test results.

But mostly, Americans don't care because of a certain blank check we wrote to George W. Bush nearly eight years ago in exchange for preventing more terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. If we'd just written "For Deposit Only" on the back.

Whatever happens next week, I'm forwarding my next phone bill to President Bush, or at least writing it off come tax time. My privacy may be fair game, but I've been filing expense reports long enough to know that if someone's on my line for official purposes, I shouldn't be the only one footing the bill.