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Opening Arguments

Flirts of fancy

Sure hope we find out how innocent or "inappropriate" the emails between General John Allen and Jill Kelley were, so I can sleep at night again:

This in turn led to a dramatic twist when sources close to the internal investigation into the scandal said that General Allen exchanged email's likened to 'phone sex' with 37-year-old Kelley.

General Allen, who is married who two daughters, denies any wrongdoing. Officials claim his emails to Kelley, who is also married with children, were simply friendly and not 'inappropriate' or flirtatious.

However, sources have told Fox News that the emails between the pair were so explicit that they could be compared to 'the equivalent of phone sex over email.'

The description "equivalent of phone sex over email" is an interesting one, but inaccurate, I think, no matter how explicit the exchanges were. "Phone sex" is something you get after paying somebody with a credit card to talk dirty to you.This was just risky flirting.

I'm sure that in the begining era of phone service -- when the idea that you could talk to somebody without a face-to-face meeting was still a novelty -- flirting over the phone replaced flirting that had chiefly been done in letters sent through the mail. But the novelty wore off, and the flirting tapered off. And when email first arrived, it was really novel -- it allowed the physical separation afforded by phones, and the more detailed narratives writing enables. Online flirting was huge in the early years, and I remember a few times when I realized I'd crossed a line into suggestive bantering I never had before.

Today, the novelty has worn off emails, and the heavy-duty flirting has moved into new territories. Sexting anyone? Hey, you, the FBI guy, put that damn shirt back on!

Oh, and get this:

The F.B.I. investigation that toppled the director of the C.I.A. and has now entangled the top American commander in Afghanistan underscores a danger that civil libertarians have long warned about: that in policing the Web for crime, espionage and sabotage, government investigators will unavoidably invade the private lives of Americans.

Gee, ya think? Online privacy -- never there, probably never will be. Act accordingly.