Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Things You Get Used To

You would be surprised at what you can get used to.

We give up many things to serve in the Foreign Service. One of those things is our idea of privacy.

We are warned before we ever go overseas that we are high priority targets. We know will we be watched, in our homes and on the streets. Our homes will likely be bugged.

After you get past your initial reaction of "Oh my god, I am never getting naked again!," you adjust. You get used to it. Even if you have been a victim in the past, you get used to it. You get used to the idea that your most private moments are not really private. (Hint: this means NEVER do anything you would rather die than have your family know).

I remember once, while overseas, seeing a story about a man who was filming women from outside their homes. He wasn't filming them in their bedrooms or bathrooms...he just filmed them in their kitchens or through whatever window didn't have the shades drawn. And these women were freaked out. They felt seriously violated. And perhaps a few years ago, I might have as well. But when this hit the news, I couldn't fathom what the big deal was. Because I have gotten used to it.

I am having a similar reaction to the latest controversy about the new TSA scanner. It shows an image that looks like you naked. And that totally doesn't bother me. I am certain it would have bothered me in the past. But I also know I have been watched in way more personal situations (note I didn't say compromising...see the hint above and live it). And I have just adjusted to it. And frankly, since I have to fly around the world as a big part of my job, I am happy if it makes flying safer. Because it is also my least favorite part of my job.

Besides, I would much rather someone see an "image" of me undressed than go through the "enhanced pat down." Besides, I am sure that makes the time in security take even longer...

But who knows...maybe I'd get used to that too.

ON EDIT: You gotta check out Four Globetrotters. I just LOVE her way of dealing with the "enhanced pat down." I am definitely going to use the "Will you hold me?" line.


Aaron said...

We've only been at post for a week, and I've already had that...feeling...that something wasn't kosher. You just gotta adjust.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Question: How common is the whole my-house-is-bugged deal? I'm the biggest pessimist in the world and in this day and age, I assume in public, even fitting rooms, there is a great possibility I'm being watched. But in my HOME? I just passed the Foreign Service test for the second time, and love the idea of being in the Foreign Service, but this is...disturbing me. Nothing can be done? I'm having a hard time accepting that I may have to accept that I'm being watched in my bedroom in my pj's...Can you go into your or others experience further please? This blog has been such a wonderful guide of info and to other really great blogs. I so appreciate it!

Digger said...

I'd say it is pretty common. It is something they warn us about in Security Overseas Seminar. There really isn't much that can be done because even if our folks removed the bugs, their folks would put them back the next day. And it isn't against the laws of a host country for their government to go into our homes. I admit it freaked me out at first, but you really do adjust.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow! Can I ask one more question? Please? When you say their government can go into your home, aside from secret bugging, do they warn you? Or for example, can something like you eating dinner and members of their government just march right on in? If so, what is their reason? Or were you referring to them entering your home when you're not there to bug you? Did it freak you out because you were in your home when they came in, or because you realized they had been in your home when you were out? hope I don't sound super paranoid, but I like to know as much as possible about this. This is the first I've heard of it! I understand if you cannot answer this question. Thanks so much for answering the first one!

Anonymous said...

I understand bugged phone calls. Are we talking cameras in the bathroom? Microphones? Both? Shower-psycho scene shots?
Because, what? We might have security breaches in our britches?
Are the many servants and house keepers in on it too? Is big brother everywhere?

And being a "high priority target," doesn't sound like much fun either. "Oh, look at me, I'm so important, my family and I are high priority."

Diplogeek said...

I'm not at my first assignment yet, but I'm going to a post where it's a pretty safe bet that you will be watched, followed, et cetera. It creeps me out, too, but others who have been in similar situations (not just in this particular country, but in others, as well) have told me that if you try to stop any of the surveillance (attempt to lose tails, cover suspected cameras, whatever James Bond-ish stuff you want to imagine), it can actually make things worse. Better to just try and get used to it. Of course, that's easier for me to say now; I doubt I'll be feeling that cavalier about it once I get to post.

Rob Pugh said...

As a first tour EFM the prospect of being spied on by a foreign power or having my business known by everyone doesn't bug me - that much. [But I did 5 years working in a small town in Japan, where everybody knew everything about the only gaijin in the area.]

But. The whole point of this is that spying, is, you know... spying. As opposed to the government mandated surrender of your privacy, safety [radiation], choice and dignity, all in the name of pants-wetting security theater that's consistently and poorly reacting to whatever the last threat was.

The only things that have effectively improved airline safety and security since 9/11 is the hardening of the cockpits and the fact that people will know to resist thugs with box cutters.

The rest of it - no fly lists, taking off your shoes, liquid restriction - is nonsense to show that "something is being done."

Not to mention these new scanners are ineffective and pointless - Rafi Sela, an Israeli airport security expert who helped design security at Ben Gurion international Airport - "I don't know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747...That's why we haven't put them in our airport"

The rush is, of course, that Michael Cherthoff is a lobbyist for the company that makes them.

Having to choose between a porno scanner and getting felt up by minimum wage workers with delusions of grandeur and authority is one step too far. Enough is enough and I'm glad people seem to have finally reached the end of their tolerance. The 4th amendment matters.

Digger said...

I think for the most part you are unlikely to run into folks in your home unless you change your schedule. Because they will know your schedule. But they could just march in (I haven't heard of that happening) and they don't need a reason. But their reason is this...every country (even our allies) wants to see what they can find on you. Do you bring classified documents (DON'T...ever ever ever). They'll be looking for them. But other things too...do you have political opinions that make you sympathetic to them? They will use that if they can. Do you have habits (adultery, excessive drinking, porn, etc) that make you vulnerable to blackmail? They'll look for that too.

This stuff bothers practically everyone at first, but you adjust. And you don't play James Bond...because they can make it worse. I got freaked out the first couple times it happened (as did my dog...I could tell from her behavior), but even she adjusted.