Column Date 2006-01-25

It's 10 P.M. Do you know where your congressman is?

Ankle bracelets are in the news these days. Not just ordinary ankle bracelets: I’m talking about the kind that have little radio transmitters inside them – the ones they put on sexual predators to make sure we know where they are, twenty-four hours a day.

After the rash of child kidnappings in Florida recently, some people also want to put these ankle bracelets on all school children, for safety, so that a parent will always know where a child is.

So far, so good. But this breakthrough technology is begging for new and creative uses.

Here’s a simple idea to start us off on the right foot (no pun intended): let’s put an electronic ankle bracelet on every congressman, every senator, every cabinet member, and indeed, every member of every administration. Every lobbyist should to be required to wear one, too.

Why? Because knowing where our congressmen are at all times can help us cut corruption and bribery, and make sure we get more for our money out of Washington.

Once all our elected officials are equipped with ankle transmitters, we’ll know precisely where they are, within a few feet, anyplace on the face of the earth.

Any citizen will be able to log onto a website where he can see, for example, that Senator Boeing (I’ll use their Washington nicknames here, to protect their true identities) is currently hard at work at his desk in the Senate Office Building. Bravo for the good senator!

But then there’s Senator Wall St., whose secretary says he’s tied up in an important committee meeting. His ankle bracelet, however, tells a different story – it shows us that Senator Wall St. is on a fast-moving boat somewhere between Florida and Nassau, probably heading for some off-the-record gambling, or just to do some fishing.

No problem here – it’s just one of those little white lies we expect from our elected officials.

It’s a different can of worms with Senator Exxon, however. He calls his wife and tells her he’s working late on an ‘environmental protection bill’ with his colleagues. This sounds believable, right?

Time passes. His wife suddenly realizes that it’s long after midnight and the senator isn’t home yet. Concerned for his safety, she logs on to the ankle bracelet site, There she sees that the senator is actually in a downtown hotel.

The computer notes that his location coordinates are identical with those of a certain female Texas lobbyist.

Isn’t technology wonderful?

Wouldn’t it be fun to find out that your state senator is watching Tiger Woods sink a thirty-foot putt at the Masters during a crucial Homeland Security debate? Or he’s on a Canadian fishing trip with three pharmaceutical lobbyists? Or that your congressman is flying to Hawaii right after he solemnly declared a state of emergency because of the Blizzard of ’05?

As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to the folks in Washington who handle our taxes and make our laws, there’s nothing like “All Surveillance, All the Time.”

©2005 Peter Tannen