This week's phrase for Orwell's dust bin is: ''If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about'' - as in, despite the illegality of the NSA's apparent ''data-mining'' spy program, ''if you're not doing anything wrong (illegal), you have nothing to worry about.''
The phrase, of course, begs the question: Who could possibly be opposed to such an important intelligence tool in the never-ending ''war on terror''? And if you don't think about it, it makes perfect sense.
Granted, it gives those pesky know-nothing peaceniks an opportunity to throw Benjamin Franklin's observation in the face of endless war hawks (''those who would give up liberty for security deserve neither''), but pay that no mind, my fellow citizen-soldier. Just remember, ''if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.'' Never mind that the whole idea silently denies that secret power breeds corruption and abuse or that it completely ignores history (i.e., government spying on terrorists like Martin Luther King).
''If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.'' I mean, you can find people's Social Security numbers, medical records, photos, addresses and all manner of highly confidential material on the Internet. So what's the big deal if the government spies on us to make sure none of us are terrorists?
OK, sure, there's a huge difference between some stalker using sometimes questionable Internet information to target you and the most powerful government in the world run by a president who thinks his constitutional views are authoritative (except they don't apply to anyone in his administration). That doesn't matter when you realize how patriotic you're being when you simply trust the public pronouncements of the most secretive government in the history of the United States.
As a matter of fact, why don't we require all U.S. citizens to display - (oops), properly display - an American flag on their door post? Those who don't should be made to wear a scarlet letter, bound in stocks in the town square and pelted with vegetables. Due process? Hah! ''If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.'' And don't let the traitors throw you off your talking points by pointing to the eerie signs of creeping fascism we see in the fight against an enemy that actually poses less of a threat than being killed in an automobile crash or a Category-5 hurricane.
Also, pay no attention to those intelligence experts who say humint (human intelligence) is much more useful than signit (signal intelligence) or that data-mining is like looking for a needle in a prairie as deep as the Grand Canyon. Efficiency and actionable results don't matter, in this case. What matters is that you remember, ''if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. ''Sure, there's a possibility you could become a bureaucratic ''mistake'' and be put on a no-fly list on the way to your mom's funeral. Or, you could be arrested because some analyst put two-and-two together - that the solicited donation you gave at the mall to the Crescent Society combined with your planned travel arrangements to visit the pyramids in Egypt ''appeared'' suspicious. Therefore, you had to be rendered to an unknown detention facility before the whole ''mix-up'' gets sorted out. Even if that should happen, don't worry. You'll get a really nice apology letter, signed by the big cheese himself.
But why stop with illegal wiretapping? This is the war on terror, we're talking about! We should put Pentagon-monitored GPS chips in all privately-owned vehicles to better track the movements of suspected terrorists who have been known to use a vehicle of some sort to commit a terrorist attack. That shouldn't be a constitutional problem because doesn't the Constitution say something about the government having the authority to regulate transportation and commerce?
Now, when you hear loosed-lipped left-leaning liberals start talking about creeping fascism, you can dismiss it as paranoid, conspiracy-theory nuttery on the completely rational grounds that creeping socialism is worse. And no, there's no contradiction in calling universal health care for Americans socialism while celebrating the spending of billions of tax dollars in building civil infrastructure, including hospitals, in Iraq (which the mainstream media never report).
But, if you remember nothing else, remember this: ''If you're doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about'' - except the terrorists.
Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and a syndicated columnist. His column runs on Tuesdays. E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2006 Cape Cod Times