During my first year in college (1975), I sent a telegram to my sister Colleen who was a senior in high school. She was in the school play and I wanted to get a written message to her wishing her luck on the opening night of the play. The message consisted of two short sentences and was delivered to her the same day that I sent it.
I don’t remember the exact cost of the telegram, but I do remember that I had to pay by the word and that it was expensive because it required manual labor to deliver it to her. At that time, there were only three ways to deliver a written message to a person who was in another city: (1) hand delivery, (2) telegram, and (3) the U.S. Postal Service. Fax machines were not yet invented and there was no such thing as FedEx.
I’ve written before about the paper route I had when I was 12 years old (1969). One of my responsibilities was to collect money from my customers on Wednesdays. Every Friday, I met the representative for the newspaper at Stafford’s Dairy (where I picked up the newspapers every day), and gave him a check for the previous week’s newspapers.
When I started delivering newspapers, my mom helped me open a checking account and taught me how to write checks. Once I had the ability to write my own checks, any time I wanted to order something in the mail, I simply completed the order form and mailed it in with a check. Prior to that, I had to always try to convince my mom to write a check for me for products she didn’t think I needed.
After I started ordering my own products through the mail, I made sure I was the first one to check the mail every day so I could grab my package when it arrived. I knew that if I checked the mail my mom would never see a package I ordered, and I wouldn’t have to justify my purchase with her.
There was one occasion when, after I grabbed the mail and looked through it, I noticed an envelope that was addressed in a way that aroused my curiosity. The envelope was addressed to another member of my family, and it appeared as though there was a letter inside. I held the envelope up to the light to see if I could read what the letter said, but I couldn’t make out any of the words in the letter.
I showed the envelope to one of my brothers and we decided that we were going to try to open the envelope in a special way so we could re-seal it without anyone knowing that we had opened it. We tried a method we had seen on television where someone held a sealed envelope over a pot of boiling water. The steam from the water loosened up the glue that sealed the envelope, and the person was able to take the letter out of the envelope, read it, and then re-seal the envelope.
As my brother and I held the envelope over the boiling water, it started to get moist and then shrivel up. We were worried that the steam would ruin the envelope, so we quickly decided to abandon our plan. Fortunately for us, the envelope dried and no one suspected that we had attempted to open it.
I thought about the telegram and envelope earlier this month when a former disgruntled National Security Agency (NSA) employee who was familiar with the agency’s operations revealed that the NSA has been recording every one of our phone calls, and collects and stores every email, text message, YouTube video, Facebook message, and Twitter message that is sent or posted. In addition, some reporters have claimed that the NSA has also been allowed access to all of our credit card transactions and the data that is stored by credit reporting agencies. (Starting next year, all of our medical records will also be stored online. Is there any doubt as to whether the NSA will also have access to those records?)
At first, companies such as Verizon, America Online, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PalTalk, Skype, Yahoo!, and YouTube denied that they were granting real-time access of their computer servers to the federal government. As more information became available, however, the companies started admitting, one by one, that they were allowing the government full access to their servers. The key words here are “full access.”
It was also revealed that the U.S. Postal Service makes digital copies of the front and back of every envelope that is mailed. The copies of the envelopes are then stored for future reference. It appears as though the only form of written communication that is still private is what’s inside the envelopes and packages that are mailed through the U.S. postal system, and that’s only because the post office hasn’t figured out a way to open every envelope, copy what’s inside, and then reseal the envelopes.
What is currently going on represents a massive invasion of privacy by our government and an equally massive deception by the companies that, up until now, everyone trusted with their communications. This outrageous violation of our constitutional right to privacy and our constitutional right to remain free from unreasonable searches and seizures should be of great concern to all of us.
I recently installed an indexing program on my computer at work. The purpose of the program is to allow me to quickly search for documents that include certain words or phrases. The program shows that I have 14,165,033 documents stored on my computer. The total number of words that are on my computer is 107,916,592. Any time I search for a word or a phrase, the indexing program instantly displays the files for the documents that contain the word or phrase that was searched.
A person who has access to the NSA computer system has the ability to quickly search for and compile all your telephone conversations, emails, electronic messages, and financial data. Your telephone conversations can then be listened to and/or automatically transcribed so the NSA can search for certain words or phrases.
Most people are familiar with the Miranda warning that police officers are required to read to suspects who are being questioned. The first two sentences of the warning are, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” We now live in a society where we’re all suspects. Anything we say to anyone on the telephone or through any electronic communication will be combined with our credit card transactions, our medical records, and all our other personal data, to be used against us at a later time.
Until recently, I had a hard time comprehending how God, who is all-knowing, has the ability to remember every thought, word, and action of every human He has ever created. Now that I’ve seen the power of computers to “remember” everyone’s emails, text messages, Facebook messages, financial transactions, medical records, and video and phone recordings, I’m finding it easier to understand how our Creator can keep track of everything.
Over the past 50 years, many Americans have chosen to reject the loving, merciful, forgiving, and all-powerful God who created them. Unfortunately, He has been replaced by an all-powerful government that is incapable of showing love, mercy, or forgiveness. Our freedoms are quickly being taken away from us. The only way we’re going to be able to reverse course is by turning back to God. I hope it’s not too late.