Review 2005

David Campbell

I have always thought that it would be cool to have a government file on me somewhere in the FBI or the Department of Defense.

I wouldn't want a thick file or anything, and I certainly wouldn't want to have the government keeping tabs on me because I liked to make bombs or had extremist political views - I only want a modest little entry under my name in a DoD computer somewhere. That's not too much to ask.

In the strange mix of reality and fiction that is my mind, having the government take an interest in me for "security reasons" is kind of cool. Now, I'm not a huge fan of The Patriot Act and wouldn't be terribly happy if I was on a government watch list because I checked out the wrong library books or something, but the geek part of me -the part of me that grew up on a diet of comic books and James Bond movies - loves the idea of my name being on a database in Virginia somewhere.

This year, two special agents from the U.S. Navy Criminal Investigative Service visited my house to determine whether or not I was a menace to national security. I was thrilled. My wife was not.

I did nothing illegal, mind you; I was just snooping around military bases during wartime with a video camera. From their perspective I can see how it might have looked suspicious, particularly since I drove away before the military police caught up with me. I'm dumb like that.

The whole thing started when I had a free day and decided to take a trip up to Whidbey Island, a long island in the Puget Sound area near Seattle. I wanted to visit my friend Che, take a look at Whidbey Naval Air Station, and maybe get some footage of a prototype Naval warship that I had been reading about. What can I say, I'm a nerd, a strange combo of liberal peacenik and military buff.

I visited the shipyard on the south end of the island where they were building the prototype ship, but the gal at the front desk told me that it had sailed for Everett a day earlier for painting before they did sea trials down in California somewhere. The ship, called only The X-Craft, is a big twin-hulled vessel designed for littoral combat in shallow water. It's very impressive and futuristic looking, and I was disappointed that I didn't get to see it.

After the shipyard I drove up to Whidbey NAS, the home station for a bunch of carrier-based A-6 Prowler jets. I hung out on a hillside just outside the base for about an hour and got some excellent footage of the Prowlers doing touch-and-go landings. Little did I know, somebody had reported me to the MPs, who were en route to question me when I drove away at high speed. I had no idea they were after me, really. I was just speeding because I like to drive fast on occasion. Honest.

The next day, while I'm at work, my wife opens the door to find two guys in suits and crew-cuts asking to speak to me. They got my license plate number and figured out who I was, even though the car is registered to my wife. She convinced them that I was just a harmless nerd and promised them that I would call and explain myself.

When I found out about the Navy guys I was STOKED. Plainclothes federal agents, asking for me? It's almost flattering.

I called one of the Navy agents the next day and explained myself. I was a military buff, I didn't think I was doing anything wrong, I'm sorry about the trouble, etc. I seemed to set the guy's mind at ease - clearly I wasn't plotting to bring down an A-6 with a shoulder-launched missile or anything like that. But up to this point they hadn't specified exactly what it was that they were concerned about, only that the Navy thought I had been acting suspicious on Whidbey Island. So like a dumb-ass, I ask the Navy agent:

"So, just out of curiousity, was all this about me taking pictures at the air base or was this about the X-Craft?"

There's a pause, and then the agent says very seriously, "The X-Craft? What do you know about the X-Craft?"

Oh, crap.

I spent another five minutes on the phone convincing him that I had found out about the X-craft online, on a public Navy website no less, and that, again, I was just a curious geek. He finally bought it and I hung up the phone, heart beating a little faster. I could just imagine him in an office somewhere at Naval Base Kitsap typing notes into my case.

Thus did I fulfill a secret goal of mine: to have a file, a dossier if you will, about me somewhere in The Halls of Power. I still have the Navy agents' business cards as a memento of my brush with a larger, more serious world that most of us never see. In this era of secret prisons and renditions and NSA wiretaps perhaps I shouldn't be too thrilled about catching the attention of the powers that be, but I kind of am.

David Campbell writes Dave's Long Box

For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:41 pm

    Heh, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Makes me with that I flirted with the authorities a bit more often.