The upside of executive-branch surveillance programs.

The upside of executive-branch surveillance programs.

The upside of executive-branch surveillance programs.

Dubious and far-fetched ideas.
July 10 2006 4:57 PM

As Long As You're Looking …

The upside of executive-branch surveillance programs.

George Bush. Click image to expand.
George Bush

Dear Mr. President,

I think it's ridiculous that some of my friends on the left, and some in your party as well, are complaining about the fact that you and some of your colleagues in the executive branch have been monitoring and maintaining personal and professional records of ordinary Americans as part of your important effort to keep us safe from those who would harm us. I totally agree with you that in order to be free, we have to be safe, and I think your instincts on this point are right on.

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Like you, I was horrified when the New York Times let on that you are tapping into international records of financial transactions, including records of major domestic banking institutions. I don't think we should be giving terrorists a road map of how we monitor them; that just doesn't make sense.

But Mr. President, here's the thing. In return for my unconditional support of all your secret surveillance programs, I was wondering: Could you do me one small favor? For a closing deadline I'm trying to meet for work, I need my April and May statements from my Sun Trust account. I was on hold with Sun Trust forever this morning, and then they finally said they would make me a copy of my own records, but at, like, five dollars a page. Also, it's going to take them about five to seven business days to get them to me. Look, I know it's my fault for leaving this till the last minute. But could you just e-mail me those two months? That would be so great. Should I just ask the CIA for them? Can you give me the name of whoever it is that is tracking my accounts and I can follow up? Apparently I need both the front and back of each page; that's a big deal I guess.

Also, while I have you: Who should I talk with on the cable/Internet side? Because I was really ticked off about my bill this month, and when I called I got switched back and forth between Verizon and AT&T. In the end, neither of them could really figure out whether my small-business package—"Freedom To Save"—was the exact right one for my firm of a dozen or so employees, and I just totally gave up. Listen, I know this gets really tedious at your end, but I gather that as part of your Enduring Freedom campaign, you also have extensive records on my cell phone, long distance, and Internet information. So, I was just wondering if maybe someone at Treasury or I don't know where could just run the numbers and tell me what's the best plan for me? I don't want you to do it personally; I'm sure you're pretty busy right now. But if you can just tell me who to call at that end, I think we could get me set up with a calling plan by the end of the day.

There's one other tiny thing, while I have you on all this stuff: I am really struggling to figure out my credit score right now. I mean, I called in to find that out this morning. Four computer options, including, "To hang up now, hang up." Anyway, after about three hours of being transferred around, I couldn't get Transamerica to cough up my report, so I just made up the number. 712. And I boxed it rather than played it straight that night, and won 70 dollars, so that was cool. Sorry, I'm rambling. Anyway, I confess I'm a bit confused as to what federal agency is tapping into our credit scores? That's the IRS, right? So, if you could just give me your pass code to the database on all this stuff, I could do it myself and not bother you with it. I'd just much rather deal with you, Mr. President, than with Transamerica, you know?

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Let me know how you want to proceed with this. You're really great; thanks for keeping all this stuff in one place for us. I guess the last thing, if you have a sec, is if my daughter's mother calls you and starts asking questions about some of my financial stuff, is there any way you could maybe give me a heads-up? My relationship with her gets really complicated. Long story. But I know once she knows you've got all this stuff online, well, you know. You are never gonna hear the end of it.

Thanks again, Mr. President. I appreciate your leadership on this.

Sincerely,

Robert