6 min read
Next in trending

I’m Tired of the U.S. Government Spying On Me. So I’m Running for President of France

The NSA’s tap on Angela Merkel’s phone is one too many

I’m Tired of the U.S. Government Spying On Me. So I’m Running for President of France

The NSA’s tap on Angela Merkel’s phone is one too many


“Yes,” said O’Brien, “we can turn it off. We have that privilege.” —Orwell, 1984

“Spying between friends, that’s just not done.” —Angela Merkel


The government has spied on me since 9/11. And I’m tired of it.

So I’m running for President of France. (Hang on, mes amis. I’ll explain in a minute.)

It’s not the lack of privacy. As a New Yorker, I’m used to that. I’m sick of the loud clicks on my phone and the ridiculous extra voices (“Do you think he can hear me?”). The inordinate volume of dropped calls. Emails that vanish from my inbox and reappear, sometimes in the wrong folder days later — or never. Is it the NSA? Or crappy service from the telecoms who sell them our data?

Well, there is that “Verizon technician” who catches my eye when I catch him working my phone box, runs away and tears off in a white van with government plates.

It’s annoying and insulting. Seriously, assholes — if I were a real terrorist, I wouldn’t use AOL.

Finally, 12 years into the war on terror, I have a solution. A path to a clear phone line (other than sending out 100 faxes at a time). A way to get all my emails the same day they were sent.

Thanks to Dianne Feinstein, I know that I must become a European head of state.

When the government started spying on me, I thought I was paranoid. But it turned out to be true.

It’s a mixed-up, topsy-turvy shook-up world, where girls will be boys and cats lie down with dogs and diners pay extra for kale, yet there’s been something especially odd about the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the top political leader tasked with constitutionally-mandated Congressional oversight of the National Security Agency, constantly making excuses for its many Edward Snowden-revealed excesses.

Intercepting and storing five years of metadata on every phone call in the United States over the last five years? Not a problem. Storing a copy of every email? Necessary to thwart terrorists. Text messages? When you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, you need the whole haystack. (← Homey post-9/11 aphorism actually deployed.)

Sure it’s illegal — in fact, it’s specifically prohibited under its charter. But NSA spying against ordinary Americans suspected of no crime whatsoever, Feinstein has argued repeatedly, “is necessary and must be preserved if we are to prevent terrorist attacks.”

(Never mind that terrorism isn’t a significant threat. Terror folks only kill 15 Americans per year worldwide — significantly fewer than get crushed to death by their televisions or fatally stung by hornets. Yet you don’t see the U.S. government spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year to fight those scourges.)

Now that’s changed.

Snowden’s latest revelation has pushed Dianne, a textbook case of Beltway Stockholm Syndrome, over the edge. It turns out that the NSA has been listening to German Chancellor Angela Merkel yammer on her unencrypted, four-year-old Nokia 6260 Slide cellphone — which follows reports that the NSA listened to phone calls and read emails by the heads of state of such U.S. allies as France, Mexico, the president of Brazil, and at least 32 other world leaders for at least the last 10 years.

This is worse than the wholesale transformation of the U.S. into an authoritarian police state. This is rude.

“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of US allies — including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany — let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” she said Monday.

Feinstein is really pissed. Power-suit sistas hang tight.

The White House called the California senator to signal that President Obama will probably issue a formal ban on NSA spying against foreign leaders. But Feinstein, such a pushover for so long, says that’s not enough. “Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers,” Feinstein said.

Occupy the Intelligence Committee, yo.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel complains to President Barack Obama that heads of state shouldn’t spy on heads of state.

Here’s where we are now: if you’ve been wondering who you have to be or what you have to do in order to enjoy private, 100% NSA-free phone calling, emailing, texting, video conferencing, etc., the answer is: “friendly foreign leaders,” as The New York Times put it. So who counts as “friendly”?

Come on. No need to be coy. White, Western European political leaders clearly make the do-not-fuck-with-their-calls list. François Hollande, David Cameron, Elio Di Rupo (who?), no worries. Mamnoon Hussain of Pakistan cashes some of America’s biggest foreign-aid checks, but those weird clicks on his line will continue.

Ted Rall, future Président de la République Française.

Which is why I’m running for President of France.

I was born in Massachusetts. Because my mom is French, however, I have dual French-U.S. citizenship.

I’m legally qualified to run. Unlike the U.S., France has no “native-born” clause. You have to be over 18, eligible to vote, and have a bank account. Which I do. In France, even. Also, with a salary of €13,000 a month ($215,000 a year), being President of France is a sweet deal.

First and foremost, as Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the French Armed Forces, I’d be in charge of a substantial nuclear arsenal that could come in handy when I contact editors about running my cartoons.

Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the French Armed Forces Ted Rall: “Bonjour. You should run my cartoons.”

Editor, New York Times: “No.”

Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the French Armed Forces Ted Rall: “An ASMP Amélioré cruise missile bearing one of my 290 nuclear warheads will arrive at your office in 25 minutes.”

Editor, New York Times: “I look forward to working with you.”

As President of France, I would also be Honorary Proto-Canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds cool.

Who would have thought that being an American citizen was such a crappy deal? That the NSA won’t respect your right to privacy — unless you’re also a foreign national?

Who is the more appropriate target of NSA spying?

The politics of MerkelGate are strange. So is the intelligence.

When you stop to think about it — these days, with everyone working 60 hours a week, who has time? — Obama and Feinstein’s We Spy on Everyone But Not Allied Heads of State policy is yet another example of the NSA’s bizarro logic.

If you were running the U.S. government, and you could spy on anyone in the world, who would you put first on your list? Terrorists, of course. Also supervillains. And the President of Apple, so you could find out if he feels guilty about iOS7 and whether there will ever be an iPhone that can make it through a day on one charge. But then, very high on that list, would be presidents and prime ministers and kings and sultans and emirs. They’re your adversaries. You need to know what they’re up to.

Hell, if you could only read the emails of 35 foreign leaders, which ones would you choose? The important ones! The big ones! Tapping President Blaise Compaoré of Burkino Faso isn’t going to get you nearly as much juicy intel as snooping on China’s Xi Jinping. As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress: “It’s invaluable to us to know where countries are coming from, what their policies are, how that would impact us across a whole range of issues.”

After Obama’s no-Western-leaders diktat goes into effect, for the NSA it continues to be open season on you, me and every other random schlub — people whose digital communications are, frankly, boring and useless. Yet after I become President of France (which also makes me Co-Prince of Andorra), I will be officially granted Full Privacy Rights.

Just when I will finally have something interesting to say, the NSA won’t be listening in.

Talk about fucked up.


Read more comics at The Nib.