“A Century of Surveillance”

By Walter Olson  /  Overlawyered

Arbitrary and intrusive executive power, with the threat it can pose to individual rights and the rule of law, is not some novel development of the past Presidency or two (or three or four). It goes back to the earliest days of the Republic. “American Big Brother: A Century of Political Surveillance and Repression,” a recent Cato project, ties together episodes from the Palmer Raids through surveillance of pacifists to LBJ’s bugging of opponent Barry Goldwater’s campaign plane to the debates over the USA Patriot Act and the crypto wars. And this tidbit from 1962:

JFK Wiretaps Steel Company Executives

Angered at steel price hikes and suspecting price fixing among steel companies, President Kennedy ordered the wiretapping of several steel company executives, and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, ordered FBI raids on the homes of the executives and journalists who had covered recent steel company shareholder meetings. While the raids produced an outcry from the business community, covert surveillance did not become public until long after JFK’s death.

 

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