Excuses for spying

FLINT – President Obama’s explanation for why no one should be concerned about the National Security Administration’s secret phone spying program was just so gosh-darned compelling that I decided to try it myself.

“Sweetie,” I said to my 16-year-old daughter. “It’s come to my attention that you’re over your data limit again on your cell phone. I’m afraid you’re going to have to cut back.”

“How did you know I was over my limit?” she asked.

“The phone company told me.”

“Wait, the phone company monitors my usage?” She said this with an eye roll. She says everything with an eye roll these days.

“Sure, that’s how they know how much to charge.”

“So how much do they know?” she asked, eyeing me.

“What do you mean how much do they know?”

“Do they, like, know who I call and when?”

“I suppose.”

“Eyew, that’s so creepy!”

“Why is it creepy? Are you calling boys or something?”

“No!” she said.

“Then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.”

That was one of President Obama’s best arguments. He didn’t say it out loud, but it was there in the sub-text: Why worry, America, if you’re not calling your terrorist friends?

My daughter continued: “So, like, does the phone company record what I’m saying?”

“Why would you think something like that?” I asked.

“Well, duh. If they know who I call and when I call and how long I talk, doesn’t it stand to reason that they’re recording my conversations?”

“Well, yes. But that’s doesn’t mean they’re listening.”

She rolled her eyes again. I could relate. That’s how I felt when the president said the government wasn’t listening to our conversations, just trolling for data patterns, that’s all. C’mon, Mr. President, do we look stupid?

“So could you ask them to?” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, even if they’re not listening, could you ask them to?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe.”

“Gross! I don’t want you listening to my calls! It’s an invasion of my privacy! Don’t you trust me?”

This is where the president’s words really came in handy.

I said, “Yes, of course I trust you, and there’s no way I’d invade your privacy unless it were really, really important. But as the president said you can’t have 100 percent privacy and 100 percent security at the same time.”

“What the heck does that mean?”

“I’m not sure,” I said.

But it sure sounded good to a dad who worries about boys.

EDITOR’S NOTE – Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Write to Andrew Heller at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.