A letter to the President warns of history repeating itself

Civil liberties activists hold a rally against surveillance of US citizens by the National Security Agency (NSA) at the Justice Department in Washington on January 17, 2014. The NSA's activities are at the center of legislation that internet companies are hoping to influence.

Formed in 1975 to examine the possible overreach of national security investigation and intelligence, the Church Committee - named after the chairman of the committee, Frank Church - was responsible for the creation of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act. At the time, the committee investigated when and how the NSA had overstepped its bounds, including the opening of people's mail without notification.

Former members of the group sent President Obama a letter this week sighting similarities between their findings during the original investigation and the current situation with NSA surveillance. In fact, they pointed out that this time around, the technology available has made the offenses much worse and larger in scope. Cyrus Farivar, senior business editor at Ars Technica, points to the increase in personal technology that the average American carries on their person.

"Typically in those days people had one phone at a fixed location: their office, their home. Nowadays, nearly all of us carry around mobile phones in our pockets which act as a really good proxy for showing where we are [and] when we are in time...I think that that’s really incredible to see these veterans of looking at some of these abuses from 40 years ago saying now that what’s going on today is far worse than what they saw previously."

About the author

Ben Johnson is the host of Marketplace Tech.


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