The Conference of the Fleas convened. Mobile phones were lined up on a table outside the SCIF. The fleas wanted to be certain that nobody would capture their own words or remarks using a sophisticated software net. Entering the compartment, the fleas were greeted with the enduring creed of their organization: ‘Every doggie has a tale’. Prominently displayed in a bold manner across the walls of the room, this creed was a sober reminder of the very important duty of the fleas. They are hidden members of society, working for the state security apparatus. The fleas jumped in unison and with delight thinking of the doggies they had tailed and the tales they would now tell. This intellectual sport is not for the faint of heart but, in fact, the fleas had emerged from their rides off of the backs of cats, rabbits and many other mammals to attend the Conference of the Fleas.
The meeting was convened with the usual short prayer: “May we know everything about our enemies and may they learn nothing from us.” The German division was asked to speak first regarding the enemies of the state. The wingless insect wore a dark brown coat and sported nicely buffed and polished fingernails. He was a cosmopolitan flea who lived near the Brandenburg Gate. Clearing his tube-like mouth, he turned up the audio on a laptop. The German division, Siphonaptera, leaned forward in an eager manner. The voice of Chancellor Angela Merkel floated into the room in clear manner. An assistant quickly loaded the translation into the laptops of all present: ‘Angela discusses fashion with her best friend’. “Thong? You think I am ever going to wear a thong? Those things only fit skinny little French buttocks. Angelina Jolie wears a thong. The Chancellor of Germany? She wears comfortable cotton.”
The German division queried their flea-mates. Did the word ‘thong’ really mean thong? Was this a coded reference to a future memorandum of agreement? Was the chancellor a Francophobe? The fleas nodded in solemn agreement. It had proven very useful to obtain the private phone line of a powerful world leader and to enjoy private thoughts meant to be shared with a trusted few.
The Brazilian division presented its findings next. The phone conversations between the president and his cabinet members revealed a few choice bits of news. However, the biggest news came from tapping the presidential bedroom. The lead flea propped his tibiae and tarsi on the table in a confident manner. “It took a while for us to be able to laterally compress ourselves into the feathers of the mattress to avoid detection but we have obtained a mother lode of information from the pillow talk. If the POTUS travels to Rio de Janeiro, we need to warn off the Secret Service. A specially trained group of ladies of the night await them. Brazilian security intends to entrap them.”
The Egypt division presented their programme next. Arrogant to the point of being unbearable, their table had posted a sign that read 7/133. None of the other fleas could figure out the meaning of the sign. A couple of the European fleas intended to place listening devices on the Arab division fleet of vehicles prior to leaving on their next assignment. Fair was fair. Those damn little sand fleas had gone too far.
The domestic division fleas saved their presentation for last. A flurry of graphs and mathematical algorithms appeared across the screens. Facebook accounts, Tweets, telephone calls, e-mails, mobile phone applications that build profiles, library cards, credit card purchases, traffic surveillance cams and all manner of data thundered across the screens like a line of M-1 Abrams battle tanks. This was the biggest of intelligence battlefields: the fearsome ‘American people’. The big news today was that of an elderly, former US president who believes the US intelligence agencies spy on him. “If I send an e-mail it will be monitored...And when I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately, I type or write a letter myself, put it in the post office and mail it” (Jimmy Carter). The lead flea for the domestic division sprang up when a peak of resilin hit him. “My god!” he proclaimed, “What faulty logic! Does Mr Carter think we are incapable of reading postal mail? We can pierce the skin of an envelope just as easily as we can penetrate a lone computer.” With that simple boast, the conference of fleas burst into song: “We eat the blood of our victims, that blood for liberty spilt. Our trade is hematophagy, the blood of the freedom of man.”
Journalist note: my own contemplation is overtaken with melancholy as I consider the tremendous harm that has been rendered to the ideals of my nation by the convening of the fleas. I am reminded of a great US president who showcased American ideals during a season when an international role model was sorely needed. President Ronald Reagan issued a challenge on June 12, 1987. He said, “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” We must never forget the predominant theme. This speech, one of the most important expressions of human thought from the 20th century, contained the word ‘freedom’ 16 times and the word ‘free’ six times.
Mrs Obama tried her hand at promoting freedom of speech at Peking University but the truth is that freedom of speech only truly exists when it is not monitored vigorously by the state. Our freedom of expression is now an illusion. Legality of action does not denote morality of action. The National Security Agency (NSA) is engaged in morally reprehensible acts against the US’s people. Our right to freely express our thoughts without fear of profiling, threat analysis and potential legal censure no longer exist to the bountiful measure envisioned by our constitutional fathers. To all others, defrauded of goodwill in the name of ‘security’, my own sincere apology is offered. And now, I think I need to go scratch an itch.
The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org