A very brief history of US government Internet surveillance programs

COINTELPRO Not Internet surveillance per se, but the grandaddy of government surveillance programs, this ran from 1956 to 1971 and included HTLINGUAL, a program that opened and read people's physical mail. It was looking for "subversive" groups -- mostly leftist/communist/social groups, but everyone from Martin Luther King to Albert Einstein got looked at. It was also widely abused, as the Church Committee, organized to investigate illegal actions on behalf of the program, put plainly: Groups and individuals have been harassed and disrupted because of their political views and their lifestyles. Investigations have been based upon vague standards whose breadth made excessive collection inevitable. Unsavory and vicious tactics have been employed -- including anonymous attempts to break up marriages, disrupt meetings, ostracize persons from their professions, and provoke target groups into rivalries that might result in deaths. Intelligence agencies have served the political and personal objectives of...
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On Internet surveillance and the role of the state

I kicked up a non-trivial shitstorm on Twitter yesterday and early today by, essentially, defending the government's PRISM program. I originally had two main points to make: The existence of PRISM should be in no way a surprise; the US government has always been monitoring the Internet. This point seems uncontroversial. And if people forgot about the previous three or four times we caught the US government doing this, chances are the fuss over PRISM is going to die down in a week or two as well. I have no problem with the PRISM program as described. Namely: it intercepts and monitors a broad swathe of Internet traffic in an effort to locate "foreign" traffic; also per Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: The government is prohibited from “indiscriminately sifting” through the data acquired. It can only be reviewed “when there is a reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts, that the particular basis for the query is associated with a foreign terrorist organization.” He also said only...
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