“Hello, NSA”

“Hello. NSA?” “Hello, CIA.“ “Hello, Homeland Security.” “Hello, whoever you are, listening in on my phone conversations.”

I’m on the phone with the Church Administrator of the little church I serve. A loud whining noise suddenly over-rides her voice. I try to talk with her; she keeps talking as though everything is fine. I hang up and call again. She wonders what happened. I tell her. “It’s the NSA,” she says. We both laugh.

But it’s no laughing matter.

The timing of the unexplained noise on the phone coincided with arrival of an email from a JFK assassination researcher who is providing overnight lodging for another critic of the Warren Commission Report, Judyth Vary Baker. Judyth is Lee Harvey Oswald’s former lover, controversial author of Me and Lee: How I Came to Love and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald. Ms. Baker makes the case that President Kennedy was assassinated by a right-wing, anti-Castro, Mafia-linked group within the CIA.

Judyth is in town this week promoting her latest book, David Ferrie: Mafia Pilot, Participant in Anti-Castro Bioweapon Plot, Friend of Lee Harvey Oswald and Key to the JFK Assassination. David Ferrie is the shadowy figure with whom Judyth worked in 1963 in a New Orleans cancer research lab she claims was a covert project of the CIA.

At the request of her publisher, my friend here in Chaska approached several bookstores, a church, and a senior citizens center. One of the bookstores, one of America’s largest, originally said yes, but the next day reported back that “it wouldn’t work out.” An event at a church was scheduled, but was cancelled at the last minute because of a scheduling conflict.

“Hello, NSA.” “Hello, CIA.” Hello, somebody. Someone is listening in. Someone who doesn’t want the rest of us listening to the likes of Judyth Vary Baker or reading the allegations about David Ferrie and the connection between the anti-Castro, Mafia-linked cabal within the CIA.

Or maybe no one is listening in and my friend and I are making it all up. Maybe there is some other reason for the noise I’d never heard before on my phone. It’s just a strange coincidence that the noise happened while the email was arriving on my MacBook Air. It’s coincidence that the phones of people I called the rest of the day did not ring but showed as voicemails without messages, a new wrinkle in their experience and mine. It’s coincidence that my computer and those of several others I had emailed or phoned began to behave as though they needed the Geek Squad or Prozac.

Although I’ve never asked to see it, I’m confident that the FBI has a file on me, and, if they do, I’m rather proud of it. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., a group in Decatur, Illinois identifies a picture of King’s alleged assassin as the man who’d shown up out-of-the-blue while a crowd of youth was still on the church parking lot following the dismissal of that night’s youth outreach program.

The FBI shows each of us three photographs, asking if we can identify the man  we met. Each of us, interviewed separately, identifies one of the three. The picture matches the photograph of James Earl Ray on the cover of Life magazine.

A cub reporter who gets wind of the story publishes a column in The Decatur Herald. The Chicago Sun-Times publishes a story on its front page. Right-hand column. Right there in black and white. The headline reads something like “King Assassin Spotted in Decatur, Illinois.” Several of us are quoted in both articles.

Years later, researchers search the files of the Decatur Herald and the Chicago Sun-Times for the stories. They’re not there. There is no evidence that the stories were ever published.

“Good night, NSA.” “Good night, CIA.” “Good night, FBI.” “Good night, Judyth.”

“Hello, Patriot Act.”

“Good-bye Constitution; good-bye Republic.”

“Kyrie Eleison!”