The Public Policy

The Public Policy

Rise of the Surveillance State

By 6.7.13

While high-tech breakthroughs make business more productive and life more pleasant, progress also has a dark side. Technology designed for benign purposes can be used for ill ones too. The Clinton administration has led the way, acting as if every new computer and telephone should have a welcome mat for federal wiretappers. A 1998 American Civil Liberties Union report noted, “The Administration is using scare tactics to acquire vast new powers to spy on all Americans.”

On April 16, 1993, the White House revealed that the National Security Agency had secretly developed a new microchip known as the Clipper Chip. The press release called it “a new initiative that will bring the Federal Government together with industry in a voluntary program to improve the security and privacy of telephone communications while meeting the legitimate needs of law enforcement.” This was practically the last time that the word “voluntary” was mentioned.