The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

August 5, 2013

Surprised by NSA snooping? I’m not

Commentary By Adam Smith

— It’s been amazing to watch the average person’s response to the news that the National Security Administration has monitored our phone calls, emails and a host of other communications.

Perhaps the people who have expressed the most outrage are unfamiliar with George Orwell’s masterpiece, “1984,” or are unfamiliar with the phrase “Big Brother is watching you.” Who’s “Big Brother”? I always thought it was the federal government.

My question — while reading through the sordid details — has been, “Why are we surprised?” Why is any American shocked at the idea of being spied on? It happened to the mobsters, so why not to us?

I’m a Verizon user, so I’m pretty sure the government knows — and is bored to tears by — what’s going on in my life.

For instance, my “recent calls” list reads like a broken record. My weekly call log features the same people and numbers — Lensey (wife), Home (parents),  Adam Nabors (a Birmingham chum), work (well, work) and Patti (my mother-in-law who calls me when my wife won’t answer her phone.)

My phone calls typically last fewer than five minutes. My wife and I talk briefly about our days, what we had for lunch and what we might have for dinner. When I call my parents, I talk about the weather with my mom and baseball with my dad.

My Birmingham friend and I discuss music and movies. Work phone calls may consist of any number of things, though none of them involve plans to smuggle a bomb onto a plane via my shoes or underwear. And calls from my mother-in-law are usually immediately given over to my wife, who won’t answer her phone.

My text messages are no more interesting.

Here’s an example of my last few text messages:

• Kim West to me: “I haven’t loaded the graduation pics because the working card reader is missing.

• Me to Kim West: “That’s fine.”

• Jonathan Deal to me: “I was supposed to finish up my deck project Monday. Would there be a problem if I take that day off?”

• Me to Jonathan Deal: “No, go ahead.”

• Me to Lensey: “I’m here (at work). I love you!”

• Lensey to me: “I love you mostest!”

• Me to Lensey: “No way!”

• Lensey to me: “Way!”

We have the same text conversation every morning that I work. It’s my job to text her to ensure I’m not laying bloodied in a ditch along U.S. 72. Likewise, she is required to call me every morning to inform me she made it safely to her job. Riveting stuff, to be sure.

My personal emails are no less exciting. A friend who lives in Denver emails me once each week to tell me about the latest beers he’s tried and the latest concert he’s seen or the one he’s going to see next. He also sends me links to articles about our favorite music artists.

Lensey emails me pictures of pound puppies she wants to rescue. Zales and Bed, Bath and Beyond email me at least twice a day because I made the mistake of shopping online with them.

And of course, I get emails from Nixle about any road work or power outages in the Athens and Limestone County area.

So exciting. I pity the federal agent who may have been assigned to pore through my accounts.

So, needless to say I’m neither surprised nor incensed by the government’s supposed intrusion into my personal privacy. I expected it, after all.

If people are so worried about what the government may find out about them, maybe they should stick to sending smoke signals, writing letters or using carrier pigeons to communicate.

Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

Orphaned Annie

On an unrelated side note, I wanted to ensure our faithful readers of Annie’s Mailbox that the column will return on Tuesday, and will once again be featured in each edition of The News Courier.

The column will appear in the classified section on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and on the front of Lifestyles on Wednesday and Sunday. I’m sorry it went away for a few days last week, but I appreciate all the calls of concern we received.

As always, thanks for reading.

— Managing editor and social snoozefest Adam Smith can be reached at