The recent revelations over NSA phone record surveillance has brought the issue of government spying, privacy and transparency back into the spotlight - but not for the first time. U.S. history shows repeated collisions between government's desire for information and a citizen's right to privacy, and between the government's freedom to act and the public's demand for transparency.
We take a historical look at transparency and privacy in American government, from the Nixon days of wiretapping to Obama's gathering of cell phone data. We examine how U.S. law has changed over time to accommodate shifting technologies, and we look at shifting perceptions of government surveillance.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE HISTORY OF U.S. SURVEILLANCE:
• A history of mass surveillance in the United States
1919 - The U.S. Department of State quietly approves the creation of the Cipher Bureau, also known as the "Black Chamber." The Black Chamber is a precursor to the modern-day National Security Agency. It was the United States' first peacetime federal intelligence agency. (Reuters)
• Timeline: Wiretaps' Use and Abuse
Wiretapping is as old as the telephone itself. Yet the laws to prevent its misuse are even older. That said, revelations that President George W. Bush authorized wiretaps without prior court approval have reopened a century-old debate over when electronic surveillance is allowable under the law. (NPR)
• Government Surveillance, Leaking Of Classified Information Both Have Long History
It isn't the first time that the federal government has been caught spying on Americans or that classified government information has been leaked to the news media or otherwise widely distributed. The Vietnam War and civil-rights protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s generated plenty of surveillance and secrecy. And leaks. But with the rise in Internet usage, there's a far bigger audience now. And some recent polls suggest that Americans may be more forgiving or accepting of government intrusion these days. (Huffington Post)