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Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:    

Today we hear a lot about government agencies such as the NSA, CIA and FBI “wire-tapping” or hacking into private cell phones. In June 2013 Congress passed a law allowing the NSA to listen to cell phone conversations of private or public citizens to sift personal data. Cell phone technology certainly makes it possible for the government or any capable entity to do just that.

On February 2, 2014, I learned just how easily and clandestinely this can be done. On the afternoon of this date my son was seated on the deck at my home between two 5-gallon buckets, one containing water, the other containing sand from the Chestatee River. He was panning the sand looking for grains of gold. I took my cell phone out of my pocket, turned it on and activated the camera to get a photo of my son in this activity (I was not online). My LG Android phone programmed with Tracfone is simple compared with phones available today. I snapped the photo and turned the phone off.

A half minute later my cell phone beeped, indicating that I had a text message. I turned the phone on and went online to check the message. The message was “What’s he doing?” I was puzzled. Was someone actually texting me to ask what my son was doing? And if so, how did they know I had made the photo? How did they get real-time access to it? After nearly a half hour, my curiosity got the best of me and I responded to the query. I sent “He was panning.” About twenty seconds later I got a response, “What?” By this, I was certain that someone had hacked my phone and was deliberately texting with me. Up to this time, I had never sent or received any text message with this phone.

The respondent’s phone number was on the message, but no name or other identifying info. Later, I went to my laptop and got on the internet and did a reverse phone look-up on the number. A little investigation revealed that the messages had originated from the southeastern US regional office of a company called Global Crossing LSI, located in Marietta, GA. Further investigation led me to the corporate website of Global Crossing from which I learned it was an international telephone, network and internet development company whose headquarters was in the Bahamas and operates on four continents. On their website was this chilling description of the company’s capabilities:

“Global Crossing (and subsidiaries) is a leading global IP and Ethernet solutions provider with the world's first integrated global IP-based network… offers a full range of data, voice and collaboration services … delivers converged IP services to more than 700 cities in more than 70 countries around the world. The company provides managed voice, data, internet and ecommerce solutions to a strong and established commercial customer base, as well as systems integrators, rail sector customers and major corporate clients…. Global Crossing UK provides carrier services to national and international communications service providers.”

Chilling, because I suddenly realized what someone with this level of cyber technology is capable of doing to and with any cell phone or internet connection. Citizens, if you are a cell phone user, even just for taking photos, be wary and very careful because there may be, and probably is, someone watching and listening. It could be a government agency or some other entity you have never heard of.

William Pless 


Dear Editor:

Celebrate Arbor Day by Learning to Save Hemlocks

Arbor Day, celebrated on various dates in February through April, is a day set aside to reflect on the importance of trees.  They contribute to the beauty, privacy, and value of our individual properties and our neighborhoods; cover our mountains with lush forests, which support thousands of jobs related to tourism and recreation, and produce millions of dollars in revenue; provide food and habitat for many birds and animals, shade for native plants, and cool temperatures for trout streams; help maintain the biodiversity of the ecosystem and protect the air and water quality we depend on; and create special places that restore our bodies...


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