Thursday, March 13, 2014

Colbert on Telecomm Contracts, Privacy: Feds Bound More by Phone Service Agreement than U.S. Constitution

Here's a biting bit of irony blown up by the Colbert Report about the U.S. Department of Justice publicly suing Sprint for overcharging $21M on their top secret wiretapping service, which federal judges have declared illegal and unconstitutional.
"That takes balls. It's like a guy telling his wife, 'I'm suing the prostitute who gave us both herpes. And by the way, I go to prostitutes, and you have herpes."
How's that for a way to start off a discussion about government surveillance and taxpayer money? So, that joke in the caption probably makes this useful for discussion with the college/adult crowd only (who should also notice the casual insensitivity of using sex workers as a vehicle for the joke), but it's certainly worth discussing both the ethics/legality of government spying (especially in connection to some research about how they're spying a la the Snowden leaks), and Colbert's clever method for bringing up the fact that taxpayers pay for all of this. Of course, Colbert's satirical impersonation of a right wing pundit demands that he couch the economic issue as due to Obama's mistakes, which he brilliantly frames from the point of view of a disappointed parent chastising a kid for jacking up the family bill through irresponsible cell phone use.
"Someone is going to have to pay for this, sir. Because even the President of the United States is bound by his cell phone agreement, though apparently not by the Constitution."--Stephen Colbert
So, what's left out of that critique? For starters, taxpayers had been paying for the service either way, and now pay for the law suit. I'd love to hear from you--what are the most important questions to ask to frame debate about the ethics of government wiretapping/data-mining, transparency of government action, and use of taxpayer money? And what research questions does this piece inspire?
[clip autostarts after the jump]

[view 0:00-2:22 for segment referenced in this post]

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