It was a pretty ordinary day today. Rainy for the most part, cloudy and overcast. I went to work wearing my new raincoat, served a few customers, made a few sales, then started to walk home.
As I headed up the street, I fished my iPod out of my pocket, intent on listening to the rest of the new podcast I downloaded this morning. As I turned it on, the usual list of available Wi-Fi networks automatically popped up. Typical list, for the most part: the gas station, the dentist's office, several weak signals from nearby private networks, and...
"NSA Surveillance Van #[number omitted]"
I suppose I shouldn't be all that surprised. They're spying on us online, why wouldn't they spy on us in person? But here, though?
I only saw the network name for a moment, but I'm positive that's what it said. "NSA Surveillance Van". Here, in my neighborhood, in my quiet little city in the valley, less than a block from where I work.
I stopped, opened my Wi-Fi settings again, and searched for the signal to take the number down. It was gone. I took a few steps back, held up my iPod, and turned in a slow circle, but I couldn't find it again. Frustrated, I looked around at the cars parked in between the gas station and the dentist's office on the corner. There were three vans or more in the area, at least one with no windows and no markings. Any one of them could have been the NSA. For a moment, I contemplated going up to the windowless vans and knocking on the doors, but my better judgment thankfully won out. I hurried home, drawing my hood up to keep out the rain.
It disturbs me more than I care to admit: the thought of NSA goons a stone's throw from my backyard. What were they doing there? Who were they watching? In this tiny Virginia city, what possible threat to national security could there be that's worth monitoring?
Of course, it's more likely that there's no threat at all here. It's just more of the hysterical, paranoid surveillance that the NSA has become infamous for. If there was any remaining doubt in my mind that this group needs to be reined in now, today erased it.
I'm gonna be more careful around windowless vans from now on.