Thursday, August 9, 2007

Wiretaps - A Remedy for Expats

This is for all the people (particularly expats) who are as pissed as I am about the passage of the extended wiretap program aka

Measure Number: S. 1927
Measure Title: A bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to provide additional procedures for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence information and for other purposes.

Here's a link to the actual Roll Call Vote, where you can check to see if your Senator voted yea or nay.

At first I was livid (I still am), at the spineless Democrats! But then, Number One Son reminded me that we have a brand new phone system here in Cairo, and we don't have to worry about having our phones tapped
(at least that's what we think.)

When we first bought our house in CT in 2002 we were calling Baku, Azerbaijan on a regular basis (we lived in Baku most of the year.) The whole family noticed a strange noise - a regular consistent ping in the background during our overseas conversations; a noise we also heard on our in country calls eventually, as well. When we returned to the States and no longer made overseas calls, the noise went away. Then we moved to Cairo, it started back up again. Passing this bill just gives the Bush Administration a free pass on illegal wiretapping (I don't care what anyone says, it's still illegal) and an invasion of privacy.

So what if I'm not a terrorist, and why should I care? Because I've lived in countries where it is assumed that your phones(and home/office) are tapped, that your freedom of speech is limited, you can not say negative things about the host government, and that your civil liberties are close to non-existent. One of the things that made me proud to be an American, was that we didn't stoop to such nonsense, that we respected the right to privacy, and that our government didn't spy on just anyone making an overseas call, but on people who were suspected of criminal wrongdoing. This bill allows the government to listen in on any and all calls made from the States to overseas numbers. So when the bill was passed and rapidly signed, I was pissed (that's putting it mildly). As I said earlier, Number One Son reminded me that we had a way to avoid this harassment, and invasion of civil liberties, at least in respect to phone calls.

So, listen up now! Here's the lowdown:

You will need an overseas DSL account in order for this to work.

1) Anyone who has any sort of address in the USA can get a phone from

2) You'll pay around $29.00 a month, plus a registration fee (about $30.00).

3) Have it billed to your AM EX, VISA, or MasterCard to save the trees (no paper trail).

4) They give you a local number with your phone. For instance, if you live in CT where we do, then you get an 860 area code.

5) They send you a box.

6) Hook it up to your USA DSL Internet system to make sure it works.

7) Take the box overseas with you, and hook it up to your overseas DSL Box - again, that's a requirement for this to all work.

8) Give your new phone number to everyone you know, so when they call you, they are saving money (because it's a "local" call), and so are you (particularly if you were using your mobile a lot). Plus, no one can "listen in" on your calls anymore.

9) In addition, you can just have your home (USA) phone number calls forwarded to the Vonage number, and people can call you at all hours of the night asking you for freaking donations!

We have DSL, use MAC's, and we have wi-fi throughout the house here in Cairo. We figure we should save a few hundred dollars (that's a conservative figure) a month using Vonage. We have two kids in college, who like to chat
a lot (daily) and would regularly call us on our mobiles.

We hooked our Vonage up to our Ethernet connection on our Airport Extreme. The Airport Extreme has a splitter which is where we hooked up both the telephone and Vonage. You may need extra telephone cord, and or cables, depending on the layout / positioning of your overseas network.

To save money, we started using Skype earlier this year, which is also a good alternative, but requires headphones to get rid of the echo. Not sure if those are counted as overseas calls, since they're Internet to Internet and my IP Address shows it's from Egypt (or so I was told by Abercrombie and Fitch when they decided to disregard an order I placed. That, my friends, is called discrimination, and another story in itself.)

And, ladies, if you do decide to go with Skype, don't put "female" on your profile, otherwise every Tom, Dick and Harry will try to contact you.

Vonage is working out really well for us. I don't watch the clock, I can talk as long as I want, and as freely as I want.

Let me just add that even though we think we're pretty fucking savvy here in this house, we can't build a bomb (except f-bombs), and so I'm sure the real terrorists will find a way around this decision too.

David Pogue, from the New York Times, tests the options here:
Get Your Free Net Phone Calls Here

David Pogue explores the ins and outs of making free phone calls through the Internet.

For example, programs like Skype offer unlimited free calls — but not from your phone. You and your conversation partner have to sit at your computers wearing headsets, like nerds.

Then there are those annoyingly named VoIP services (voice over Internet protocol), like Vonage. You plug both your broadband Internet modem and your existing phone handset into an adapter box. Presto: unlimited domestic calls from your regular phone.

Now, I just have to figure out how to re-route my international e-mails so that they're not read either!

Oh, and I would like to thank Number One Son for stopping me from banging my head up against the wall.

Headzup: Gonzo's New Powers


  1. I don't have to check roll call to know how my Senators voted. I live in Texas...the great state that gave the world George Bush and Roberto Gonzales.

    On another note. For an ole woman with a laptop can ya increase the font size on your blog? It's way too tiny to easily read.

  2. When I first repatriated and we were in the process of applying for my husband's visa (he's egyptian) the phone lines seemed to have a regular click on them. Brand new phone.

  3. My daughter had a friend, who never had a problem. Then he went overseas, had either been calling or got calls from the USA and then his phone started to sound like ours.