Apparently so. As are Americans who travel in the Middle East. As are Red Cross and other aid workers. As are soldiers who call home.
ABC news reports that their phone calls between Americans have been monitored by the NSA, contrary to law and contrary to what they’ve previously asserted – that the only phone calls being monitored are between Americans and suspected terrorists.
The practice came to light because two intercept operators grew uncomfortable listening in on hundreds of private, often intimate conversations between Americans. Operators were sharing especially salacious ones – which reminded me of the weird frat-boy flavor of some of the Abu Ghraib photos. It’s almost as if YouTube has insensitized us to the idea of privacy. But what’s more troubling is that the NSA continued to track phone calls of aid workers and journalists – this wasn’t just an “oops” mistake, it was deliberate.
Will Congress actually take action? I’m not holding my breath. They already passed a law to excuse the government for previous illegal wiretapping.
There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized. George Orwell, 1984.