Monday, June 10, 2013

Stones the Size of Drones.

Have you ever seen the TV show, What Would You Do? Formerly a recurring segment on ABC's 20/20, it apparently became so popular that it was spun into its own program, like, you know, a whole box of just Crunch Berries.

The show's focus was on the behavior of innocent bystanders who believed they were witnessing public acts of boorish or unethical behavior. In reality, each situation was crafted by producers and performed by professional actors, who ultimately revealed themselves Candid-Camera-style.

What Would You Do? quickly emerged as one of our weekly staples. My younger daughter and I would sit gasping with indignation as a "mother" chastised her "daughter" for being too overweight to wear a certain type of clothing while shopping in a department store. We wouldn't exhale until a nice lady or guy approached her and said something like, "Hey, step off, Mommy Dearest. Satan called and he wants you home in five minutes for hot yoga."

There was the"pregnant" women downing tequila shots at a bar. Being from south King County, I never really understood the big deal there.

There was the waiter refusing to serve two dudes dressed as drag queens. I tended to agree since they ordered Bud Light, the most abhorrent swill known to humankind.

And of course, there was the testosterone-soaked father who literally beat his son into the pavement during an intense physical workout at a public park. Joggers would pass with mouths agape, occasionally stopping to confront the man as he forced his son to perform push ups and sit ups. I remember desperately wishing that a kindly Samaritan might someday intervene after witnessing the grisly abuse my daughter inflicts upon her own father while playing one-on-one hoops at the Y. 

Someday the emotion won't burn so raw and the healing will begin. Someday.

But over the weekend, the grand poobah of the What Would You Do? lodge stepped to the podium. Former Central Intelligence Agency employee Edward Snowden, released details to London's Guardian newspaper concerning secret United States surveillance programs. Snowden acknowledged being the source of leaks outlining government practices that collect records on domestic telephone calls and overseas Internet activity in the global hunt for terrorists and criminals.

In his capacity working for a private intelligence contractor, Snowden had access to the mother lode."The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything," he told the newspaper. "With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your e-mails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your e-mails, passwords, phone records, credit cards."

Zowie. I don't care about the passwords and credit cards, but man, do I have a long trail of interesting phone conversations with my wife about how long to microwave a baked potato prior to putting it in the oven. Enjoy my dream life, oh spymasters.

Before you brand this man a traitor worthy to breathe the rarefied air of the Benedict Arnolds and Aldrich Ameses and Brett Favres, keep in mind—this guy has chosen to ruin his life; after all, he voluntarily identified himself. Mr. Snowden abandoned everything—his home, his livelihood, even his girlfriend—to establish a moral stand. Most turncoats are motivated either by financial incentive or revenge. 

Not Edward Snowden.

He's obviously in huge trouble, maybe even worse than the kid in my daughter's middle school orchestra who carved his name into his two thousand dollar, school-owned cello, and got booted off the school's trip to Disneyland. Right now, Snowden is holed up in a hotel somewhere in Hong Kong, peaking through the blinds and waiting to be granted asylum from some, possibly any, sympathetic government. 

But by blowing the whistle on these shady dealings, Snowden has planted his bar stool smack dab in the cross hairs of his jilted lover's favorite toy, the predator drone. Or, if and when he's apprehended, he can plan on the federal hard labor version of Extended Stay America. How about that for a couple of can't-lose propositions?

The United States government insists that it isn't abusing this unbridled power, that it only wants to disrupt and destroy terrorist networks while ensuring its citizens the same privacy and freedoms secured  over two-and-a-half centuries by the blood of so many. I'm just not sure, though. Do you buy it? 

What would you do?

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