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The Eyes Have It

Neighborhood Watch, With a Twist

by MISSY BEATTIE

I have this feeling. I have this feeling and thought that people are gathering at water coolers, in hallways near their cubicles, and on the walking paths of their kingdoms, in the interest of country, duty, honor. You know, to scour each other’s lives. It’s not unlike the Buddy System. That other name, Insider Threat Program, sounds harsh.

So, check this out: There’s a woman who lives in my building. Occasionally, her door’s open. Not just unlocked but wide open. I’m fixated on this. And believe me, when I obsess, I cover every clue. I watch from my window when she’s outside–when she’s basking (ostensibly) in nature and checking the plantings—knowing she could be plotting, unearthing, hiding something among the greenery and behind her curious expression and amiable smile. Or is that an enigmatic expression and sly smile?

So, I lurk, examining minutiae that the less observant would miss. The way she gently touches a leaf—probably a ruse. She wants me to believe she’s kind and, yes, approachable. I almost reported her, but then I had this profound hesitation. Mainly about timing. I’m weighing options, thinking that perhaps the government eventually might offer Wal-Mart vouchers for information. Patient I’ll be, waiting, skulking.

Admittedly, I could be mistaken. But I trust in erring on the side of security. And she may be perfectly sincere, candid, but then again, she could be a real terrorist. Some of you understand what I mean by that. Or perhaps you don’t. I know it’s confusing, but give me a minute to elaborate: If Billy or Bob shoots up a school, he terrorizes but isn’t considered a real terrorist. Yet someone who attempts or carries out something similar but is named Ahmed or Malik is. I guess it’s the foreign (sounding) fusion of vowels and consonants that brews a divergence.

Anyway, there’s more about this woman: She’s computer savvy. I wouldn’t say she’s a techie like Edward Snowden—you know, an infrastructure analyst, but she’s accomplished. I have proof she can attach a file and Cc.

But GET this:

One of her emails contains a RED-flag weirdness beneath her name. And if you don’t believe me, I’ll show you. I’ll copy and paste. Be right back.

Okay, here it is: “またあかなやさはらまたあかさはらやわや !”  And that’s not all. Her closing’s suspicious, too–“Ciao”. My sleuthing puts her language skills at three. Could be more. Is she spying for the Chinese government, the Italian, both? Or is that Chinese up there? I entered it in a Google search and saw pages of that stuff—the unknown, and we all know that the unknown is frightening. And we all know that frightening means: “BE AFRAID.” Because there are evildoers that wish to harm us.

At any rate, I’ve reflected almost a week now. And I’ve studied. I know a little about that campaign called Honor the Oath, which CIA director John Brennan said is “intended to protect our corporate culture of secrecy through education and training.” President Obama said it’s important that military officers be very careful not to leak anything that would put our troops in danger or thwart their missions.

We must’ve educated and trained those European leaders in some crash course, because they don’t seem as angry today as they were yesterday and the day before. I guess it’s because we’re the USA. We do what we do because we can. And even if the embassies have been Lysol disinfected of bugs, our guys have determined beforehand the means to reinstall the latest generation of electronic surveillance devices. Send in a SEAL team, Delta Force, even Schwarzenegger, or better still, that man who went out for a smoke in Boston and noticed something amiss with his boat.

I’m thinking too about the president. I believe him when he says things like: “The American people don’t have a Big Brother who is snooping into their business. I’m confident of that. But I want to make sure everybody is confident of that.”

I am confident, because in a news conference with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, Obama said:

We should stipulate that every intelligence service — not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there’s an intelligence service — here’s one thing that they’re going to be doing: They’re going to be trying to understand the world better, and what’s going on in world capitals around the world. If that weren’t the case, then there’d be no use for an intelligence service.

See, he’s just trying to understand the world better. It’s what any Nobel Peace Prize recipient would want—understanding among nations. But this Snowden showdown is something, isn’t it? I mean, Obama’s making some big decisions, diverting Evo Morales’s plane to Vienna where it was searched for Snowden. Makes you wonder what else the young man’s going to reveal, like something truly juicy that could damage our humanitarian image (and those missions yet to be accomplished). Does seem to me the president’s pitting our country against South America. But what do I know about international law, anyway?  I’m sure Obama wants to be transparent. He’s said it repeatedly. So, I’m assuming all this is related to national security and our interests EVERYWHERE.

As Obama says, we don’t have a Big Brother. We don’t have a Big Daddy either. We have something else—a recycled old name that’s friendly, like the Buddy System. Let’s call it Neighborhood Watch, with a twist.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: missybeatgmail.com.