Hightower: Telephone Spies

Have you heard about this one: "The Digital Telephony Act?" No, it's not some mental telepathy stunt, conjured up by a carnival soothsayer -- but an actual act of congress, conjured up by real-life spooks in Washington. You might not have heard of "digital telephony" but it soon could be hearing from you. Pushed by the FBI and quietly passed last year with the bipartisan backing of Bill Clinton, Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich, it authorizes a Brave New Era of high-tech espionage -- against us! Last month the FBI revealed for the first time the shocking sweep of the secretive surveillance scheme it has in mind. Using a single computer in Washington, these government agents would be able to wiretap more than 74,000 of our telephone lines at once! This is ten times more phone taps than they now do in a whole year. Why do they need this unprecedented power? Here's all they will tell us, and I quote: "The full implementation is absolutely essential for law enforcement and public safety -- would be inappropriate to comment further at this point." In other words: "Trust Us." I don't think so, do you? As we've learned the hard way, every time the FBI gets more technology and power, they find an excuse to use it. To make this nightmare worse, these gumshoes want us taxpayers to pony-up half-a-billion bucks to pay for the new digital gadgetry that they need to listen-in on 74,000 of our calls at one time. We pay them to spy on us. Do we look like we have sucker wrappers around our heads? The good news is that congress has not yet approved this spending, so there's still a chance to stop this madness, to learn how to keep Big Brother from tapping our pocketbooks and our phones, contact a privacy watchdog group called Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility: 415-322-3778.

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