We are a nation of snoops with a long history of snooping.
The first words ever spoken on a telephone were from the lips of Alexander Graham Bell who said, "Mr. Watson come here
I want to see you."
The second words spoken on a phone were from Bell's mother who was listening on an extension and said, "Alexander — are
you on that blasted phone again!"
Well, not really, but she probably would have if she could have.
Today we listen in at a far more sophisticated level.
It starts with baby monitors in the nursery. We wire our infants' bedrooms for sound so as not to miss a thing, not a single cry,
a gas bubble or a burp.
There are parents who won't consider a day care without a web cam they can periodically check from a computer at work.
There are other parents who tuck a mini- cam in a potted plant or between books on a shelf in order to monitor the nanny or
the babysitter. Sometimes suspicions are confirmed and outrageous tapes of abused children sadly make their way to the
At a high-end grocery store not far from us, parents can drop children off at a play center while they shop. Monitors
suspended throughout the store enable parents to glance up and check on the kids between picking up packs of chicken
breasts and bottles of juice.
We like knowing. We like seeing and we like hearing. Why wouldn't we? These have long been the means by which we
safeguard our families and avert dangers, both real and imagined. It's monitoring, not meddling.
No, the meddling comes later when the kids are older. Who was on the phone? Where are you going? When will you be
home? That is intelligence gathering of another sort. There are times when surveillance simply comes with the turf.
We're all under surveillance really. We have cameras targeted to catch motorists running red lights, cameras that record
activity in bank lobbies, apartment entryways, hospital hallways, gas stations and parking lots.
Our local public high school has nearly 100 surveillance cameras. And they say there's "nothing on" worth watching.
GPS technology can zero in on your home by satellite, unlock your car and track homebound criminals tethered to ankle
We have built entire industries based on our need and desire for surveillance. Inquiring minds want to know.
Yet a recent poll says Americans are split on the matter of our nation's surveillance of phone calls placed by suspected
terrorists. These aren't kids breaking curfew or school boys causing a commotion at the back of the bus. These are
blood-thirsty terrorists committed to two things: our destruction and the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
When we plant computer chips in dogs and cats that have been lapping at the same water bowl for years and are unlikely to
wander away, yet hesitate to use every technological resource available against the very real threat of terrorism, we have a wire