Cigars, Legs, and Spying

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As a writer of detective stories, I write a good and fair bit about eavesdropping and the like. Given that the two released Cigars and Legs books thus far are set in the 1950s, sometimes the methods aren’t as… friendly to things such as Miranda and the 4th Amendment as they would be if set today. Ron probably violates wiretapping laws. Ron definitely spies and eavesdrops. He isn’t a cop, and doesn’t let pesky rules get in his way. He does this as a private citizen in a way that is ultimately aimed at helping the police. The role of the private eye in fiction is pretty well set up: The detective you go to when the regular ones aren’t doing what you need done.

On some levels, Ron is also a vigilante. He’s a well informed one (he doesn’t go off half-cocked), but he does things… extra-legally

This is all fiction. Ron is built to be an interesting, flawed man. He’s loyal to a fault, he’s strong, he served his country. He’s a former fighter pilot and he rides a motorcycle. He’s fond of guns and cigars, scotch and tits. That’s just what Ron is: very masculine, but not in the negative way — he’s not a dope; to get into OCS someone has to have a four year degree. Ron’s is in engineering. He’s attracted to women but not in a deviant way. He’s attracted to them in a manly way. That is to say: Womanly women give him manly desires. (Your definition of womanly and his may differ.)

But he also craves justice. In the stories written so far he wants justice for his friend Kate, and then for the other people hurt by the conspiracy. The deck is stacked against him because that’s how fiction is best laid out. A character in God mode doesn’t have to deal with any of the trouble of fighting. He’s just immune, he’s perfect — Ron’s not that. The deck is stacked, and to try and even the odds he breaks the law and violates the rights of the bad guys to see that justice through.

That said.

The deck is not stacked against the government of the United States. The deck is stacked very much in their favor, and has been for some time. Lately there have been a string of controversial revelations about that government. The IRS is picking on people for political purposes, with purely political motives. I’m not sure where the Hatch Act falls into play here but it seems to me that this is a very partisan set of actions by at least a few federal employees.

Then came Snowden and his revelations about the extent of the spying possible, and that it is justified in some secret court order. This should chill everyone to the bone: combine the two (and don’t think some power hungry bureaucrat hasn’t thought of this!) and you have a record of every private conversation held over a phone, through text messages, or through e-mail (nevermind that anything private should be encrypted — for all we know they can break that encryption). You also have a government willing to persecute citizens based on political opinions. So a potential archive of those unpopular opinions and the ability to go after them with it — remember, the IRS doesn’t need a judge or jury to take everything you have.

And who is to say what will be unpopular next?

We don’t know who will be president after 2016’s elections. Or 2020’s, or 2024’s… we just don’t know who will have power. This isn’t a left vs. right thing. It’s a state vs. citizen thing. And in this case, the state has the deck sorely tilted in their favor.

Remember that government is force. They can throw you in jail. They can execute you. They can, apparently, spy on your every communication so long as a secret judge says it is all right. Government has many guns and many laws, and cannot even tell you how many felonies exist anymore. “Give me three lines written by any man, and I will find you something to hang him with” is the quote (paraphrased from memory). Well, now they have a lot more than three lines from a lot more than just any man.

And they’re in charge, and we don’t know who they won’t like next.