NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 25, 2014

Trading in your freedom for security

Bill Plante
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Big Freddy was sitting there with his emptied coffee cup in his hand, when I joined him and I asked what was bothering him.

“Where we’re headed,” Freddy said.

“Considering our age that should be clear enough,” I said.

“I’m not referring to the grim reaper or just the two of us -- it’s what’s happened to everybody’s privacy,” Freddy said. “Can’t make a phone call now without the government knowing who you’re calling or what you’re calling about.”

“I take it you’re referring to Obama’s explanation of what the government’s been doing since 9/11 to keep us safe from terrorists,” I said.

“He had to because Edward Snowden spilled the beans,” Freddy said.

“And some think he’s a traitor while others think he’s a hero taking refuge over in Russia, “ I said.

“Whatever, but I’m taking this personally,” Freddy said. “What I’ve been doing has had nothing to do with anybody’s business but mine and those I count on to advise me as to my investments around and about.”

“Fighting terror involves fishing expeditions of communications,” I said.

“I don’t fish,” Freddy said. “I invest from time to time on which horse is most likely to finish better than fourth.”

“Figure of speech,” I said. “Commercial fishermen can take only so much of certain kinds of fish.

“Those we depend on to keep us safe from terrorists have been monitoring all information sources including certain kinds of telephone calls, and they’ve done a whale of a job doing it since 9/11.”

“I agree but the smell of it’s not over just the land of the free and the brave,” Freddy said. “It smacks of what goes on in too many countries we think of as enemies.”

“Where terrorists are everywhere and we’re a prime target,”I said.

“But who knew our personal telephone calls were being tapped?” Freddy said.

“We didn’t. Great Britain, France, and Germany didn’t. They’re our allies and they’re not that happy for having to learn about it the hard way with Snowden spilling the beans.”

“Well everybody knows about it now,” I said. “Obama had to acknowledge it as a form of treachery by identifying it as a costly breach, but there will be no way to tell how history will treat that.

“As far as our role is concerned, it’s not over. There are no signs of it being over, so long as we are forced by reason of our commitments that have been so long in play.”

“Well this play has been going on for too long, and freedom isn’t what it use to be,” Freddy said.

Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and a staff columnist.