The NSA wants my cell phone data? Meh. Most of it is on Facebook anyway!

So this whole “the government is going all Big Brother on us” thing is everywhere right now, and I’ve come to an important conclusion about it all.

I don’t really care.

Like I know that, as an American, I should care that my Fourth Amendment rights are potentially being violated. But honestly, I had to Google what the Fourth Amendment even was. And considering that we’re talking about an amendment written so far before the existence of cell phones that it was fifteen whole amendments before women were allowed to vote, I’m not sure that it’s actually being violated here.

In talking to a lot of my friends, I found many of them (except for the extreme righties, who are still protesting the amendment that gave my kind and people of other races the right to vote and who claim creationism is the only thing that should be taught in schools) don’t care either.


But Sara, you freaked out over all of Bush’s Homeland Security stuff! You’re such a hypocrite! You’re only saying this stuff is okay because you support Obama.

Well, you’re right and you’re wrong.

I DO support Obama. I’m the freaking poster child for supporting Obama. I own a sparkly Obama tank top.

And wore said tank top on stage with Bruce Springsteen. Because that’s how I roll.

But there are several key factors that I feel aren’t being addressed here.

For starters, I’ll admit, when the idea of Homeland Security stuff was first introduced, it sounded scary. It felt like the Harold and Kumar 2 version, where the dumbest possible people were going to look for the worst in everyone and we’d all end up with Big Bob in Guantanamo if we even said the word “bomb” within thirty miles of an airport.

Want to know how much my daily life has changed since then?

Not a whole lot. Is it annoying that I have to check my luggage to go anywhere because I’m incapable of packing my toiletries in small enough containers to carry on? Yes. But I don’t travel that often. And if we’re being entirely honest, that is the full extent to which the NSA has overall interfered with the quality of my life.

So with that said, if the government has already been monitoring my phone records without my knowledge and it hasn’t been a problem, I’m fine with them continuing to do so. If they start sending the SWAT team in every time I text my best friend that I’m going to kill my mother (which I would NEVER say, mom, honest! Please don’t hurt me!) then okay, I feel my Fourth Amendment rights are being violated.

But, at least as far as we’re being told, they’re only monitoring who people are contacting, not the content of phone calls or text messages. So the government now knows that my dad calls me every three minutes for approximately nine seconds, that my best friends and I text a lot, and that my mother calls me every single afternoon at the very second that she leaves work/as soon as I start working out. Oooooooh. Seriously important stuff here people!

The truth is though that for law-abiding citizens, cell phone records aren’t exactly super incriminating. Sure, you don’t want your significant other getting ahold of them if you’re cheating. But the government doesn’t care if you cheat. The media does, if you’re famous, but the government practically condones cheating.Hell, so many people in the government itself cheat that they’d probably cover for you, if that’s what you’re worried about!

It’s also worth noting that anyone who thinks they have any privacy, yet uses a smart phone/has a Facebook or other social media account/uses a cell phone at all for that matter, is an idiot. Even if you DON’T walk around in public having excessively loud cell phone conversations about extremely personal matters (which most of us do), it’s super easy for people to hack cell phones. Not me, because A) I don’t have those skills and B) I don’t care, but people who DO care can hear your conversations if they want to regardless of who they are/if they work for the government. And if you’re updating your Facebook with what you ate for dinner every night, you’re broadcasting your every move to the world anyway. Why do you really care if the government knows WHO you’re talking to when you’re putting all that info out there on your own?

And to be totally honest again, even if the government actually WANTS to listen to my conversations and read my text messages, it would be a HUGE waste of their time, but I don’t care that much.

Want to know what they would learn?

Here’s the conversation that my mother and I have every day.

(Phone rings) Me (without even looking at the caller ID): Hi mom.

My mom: (Depressed Eyore voice) Hi Sara.

Me: What’s up?

My mom: Ugh, I’m just leaving work. (Pause) Are you at the gym?

Me: Yup.

My mom: I should go to the gym. But I had such a long day. Blah blah work blah blah feel fat blah blah work blah blah your father blah blah work blah blah blah you’re a horrible person and fail at life blah blah.

Me: I actually had something interesting happen today. I—

My mom: I’m pulling into the garage, gotta go, bye!

Me: Sigh.

EVERY SINGLE DAY. I pity the government agent whose job it is to listen to that EVERY DAY. Really. I do. But if they want to, cool. Good for them.

And if they want to read my text messages, they’ll see a lot of conversations with Ary about the zombie apocalypse (don’t ask), a lot of emoji combinations that are code for “I’m going to jump off a building” and “I super lesbian love you” between me and Darya, messages telling the boyfriend that I’m heading to the gym and asking what he wants for dinner, and ten billion pictures of Rosie. And a bunch of pictures of Rosie pooping, which I send to the boyfriend. Yes, I’m a weirdo. But he laughs every time I send those, so it’s really okay. And he even makes up little songs about her pooping. We really are the perfect couple.

But I’m getting off track. If the government wants to see all that, then yes, they too can see pictures of my dog defecating. In fact, I’m happy to send those pictures to them if they want (I even have a few politicians topping my list of people whom I’d like to send pictures of Rosie pooping to! John Boehner, be ready!) Now if they start coming after me to see if I scoop the poop based on those pictures, I’ll start yelling about my Fourth Amendment rights, but until then, I’m cool.

Yes, I would be much more freaked if we were still in the Bush years. NOT because I’m a diehard Democrat (see pictures above) and being a hypocrite, but because I trust the Obama administration to not misinterpret what they see in my messages. I’m half convinced that the Bush administration went into Iraq over a text acronym that someone intended to mean, “Where’s My Dinner?” or something along those lines. With Obama, at least I’m not worried that an army of NSA SWAT guerrillas will come swinging in through my windows screaming about “Weapons of Terrorist Functions” if I text my best friend and ask her WTF she’s talking about when she starts saying where we should hide when the zombies come for us.

Although, maybe the government SHOULD be reading our conversations. I’d rather be safe than sorry when the zombies DO rise up. Which, according to Ary, is happening any day now.

Which actually concerns me more than Verizon’s cooperation with the government.

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TSA: Pull laptops out of carry bags at airport or God kills a kitten or puppy

After all the hype about heightened airport security for Thanksgiving weekend, I was kind of disappointed at how easy it actually was to smuggle dangerous stuff onto an airplane.

I’m kidding. I followed the law to the letter. TSA officials, if you’re reading this, please don’t put me on the No Fly List!

But I WAS expecting it to be tougher to get through security. Maybe it’s because I left my burka at home, or maybe it’s because I look like the quintessential American girl next door. Or maybe it was because I was traveling with my parents way past the age when I should have been, but apparently I don’t look remotely threatening.

Which, as a teacher, I find surprising. I’m pretty sure I can be way more frightening than your average person.

I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that the guy expediting the x-ray lines at Dulles airport on Thanksgiving morning had a sense of humor because A) I thought it was illegal to joke about ANYTHING at the airport and B) if I had to be working Thanksgiving Day, I’d be blaming anyone who crossed my path for making it necessary for me to be there. But at 7am, when I’m normally anything but cheerful, the guy running the security line had me cracking up.

Completely deadpan, he loudly informed everyone in line to remove all laptops from carry bags and to put each laptop in a separate tray to be scanned. “Each time anyone forgets to take a laptop out of a carry bag,” he bellowed, “it slows down the line and God kills a baby kitten or puppy.”

Because I’m a smartass, I asked him if there was any way to control if it was a kitten or a puppy that died. If it was a puppy, I’d definitely pull out my laptop, but a cat? I’d hide that sucker at the bottom of my suitcase with a dozen full perfume bottles!

By all rights, this probably should have been enough to sentence me to the dreaded scanner machine, considering that you can be arrested for saying the word “bomb” at an airport.

 No joke. I went to show my dad a link to funny photo bombs on The Huffington Post and the SWAT team came swinging in through the windows to throw me into a dungeon.

And if I’m being totally honest, I kind of WANTED to get put in the scanner, just to see what all the hype was about. And I REALLY wanted to see the picture of what I looked like in it. But apparently they won’t show those to you. And my dad said that if I asked to go in the scanner, he would kill me Dexter style (which apparently you ARE allowed to say at the airport, because the SWAT team was still hovering to make sure I didn’t say “bomb” again in any context and they nodded their approval when my dad said that). So I didn’t mention the scanners, just stared longingly at them as I put all of my stuff on the X-ray belt.

“No,” the security guy told me, still completely deadpan, “God picks whether it’s a kitten or a puppy that dies.” Then he began listing items that couldn’t go through security with us and what we should do with them. “If you have a cup of coffee, finish it. If you have a bottle of water, dump it out. If you have tequila, share it.”

I kind of wanted him to be my new best friend.

Sadly, despite setting off the metal detector twice with my jewelry, I was cleared once my hands, wrists, and neck were naked and avoided the full body scanner.

I took my time putting my shoes back on (I’d worn boots entirely because I thought they might give me a better chance of getting picked for the scanner), hoping to see if ANYONE had to go through it, but no one did while I was there. Which I think is kind of irresponsible of the TSA. I mean, I’d forgotten that I had a lipgloss in my purse that WASN’T in my little plastic baggie. If I did that unintentionally, what were people bringing with them intentionally? I TOTALLY could have had a chemical weapon in my bra or something. I didn’t. But I COULD HAVE. (But I wouldn’t. Again, TSA, I promise, I’m not a threat!)

But alas, I wasn’t meant to go through the full body scanner.

My experience was the same on the way back, minus the sense of humor. In fact, I was pretty sure that if I joked about leaving my laptop in my bag with the security guys in LA, I would have been dragged into a back room, beaten within an inch of my life, then shipped off to Guantanamo, Harold and Kumar style.

But they must have sensed my desire to be targeted for some additional screening, because right after the flight attendant scanned my boarding pass, I was pulled aside by a TSA crew seated at a table just inside the jetway and told to display my palms.

Of course, I had no idea what was going on, because I hadn’t heard of this particular type of screening, and thought they were going to say my suitcase was too big to carry on, because after Black Friday shopping in LA, it was stuffed far beyond the allowed size limit and was in peril of bursting, spewing clothes, shoes, and makeup over everything within a sixty mile radius.

 So I panicked, knowing that my dad would murder me and throw my body out of the exit row door somewhere over middle America if we had to wait at baggage claim (and in that moment it dawned on me that THAT is the precise reason why he insists on exit row seats, not the extra leg room).

But no, they just rubbed a cloth over my hand and analyzed it to see if I’d been handling any chemicals. Which, boringly enough, I hadn’t, so they sent me and my ready-to-explode suitcase on our merry way.

So even though I didn’t get to experience any extreme security measures, at least I made it to California and back in one piece over the busiest travel weekend of the year. Which I guess means that whatever the TSA is doing, it’s working. Even if they ARE leaking almost naked pictures of people on the internet.

Which, if it happened, would probably be good for my writing career, publicity-wise.

I’m so wearing an “Everyone Loves a Muslim Girl” shirt the next time I fly.

Although knowing my luck, I’d get a security guy with a sense of humor and be waved straight through. Oh well.