Article Comment 

Adele Elliott: Spies around us 


Adele Elliott



Americans are in an uproar over the recent news that our government is spying on ordinary citizens. In June, the Guardian newspaper announced to the world the source of one of the most significant classified-document leaks in history. 


Suddenly, we all recognize Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old national-security contractor from Hawaii. He says that his conscience compelled him to inform the world about a massive abuse of authority perpetrated by the U.S. National Security Agency. According to the documents Snowden provided (which have been authenticated), the U.S. government has been systematically collecting the phone records and online communications of millions of average Americans.  


For baby boomers like me, this evoked the image of "Spy vs. Spy." You may remember the identical, pointy-faced foes from Mad magazine. One was white, the other black. They were the creation of Antonio Prohías, a Cuban political cartoonist who fled that country fearing arrest and execution by the government. 


The exposure to the "Spy vs. Spy" cartoons provided a bit of insight about the Cold War to those of us who came of age in the 1960s. I suppose that it is rather sad to admit that an inane, disrespectful comic book was the source of our understanding of current events. 


Fast forward to the 21st century. We are surrounded by spies. As uninteresting as most of us are, we are a source of great fascination to some very greedy peeping Toms. Anyone who owns a computer knows what I mean. 


Recently, I purchased a few books from Amazon. Now, each time I switch on my laptop, this Internet bookseller bombards me with suggestions for reading materials that they are sure are exactly my taste. 


And, I don't even have to actually purchase anything. Just looking at a dress or blouse online assures that that item, and more in similar styles, pop up no matter what I am trying to view. Whenever I go to a game site or other completely unrelated place, the things that I didn't order flash across the screen urging me to reconsider them. It is tempting to buy them just to get them out of view.  


I find retail espionage almost as troublesome as political surveillance. Which spy wears the white hat, and which the black one? You decide, because I have no idea. 


The majority of us lead rather boring lives. Anyone with voyeuristic tendencies inspired to listen in on my conversations would probably rip out their eardrums from boredom. Still, there is reason to be concerned. Our freedoms? They are dwindling daily. 


It appears that the only way to avoid the surreptitious intrusion into our lives is to shun the Internet, cell phones and perhaps even correspondence that is delivered via snail mail. 


We could buy all our clothing from retail merchants in the Golden Triangle, use only cash, and toss away our computers and smart phones. This may be an opportunity for creative entrepreneurs to bring back carrier pigeons, or coded smoke signals. (Yes, I am kidding.) 


More likely, we will just accept the government's stealthy intrusion. It is the path of least resistance. Does the NSA wear a light-colored cloak, or a dark one? It hardly matters. There are some razor-sharp daggers hidden there. Both are sinister.


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.


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