Historical Parallels

The Critic finds a great historical parallel between the NSA and phone records and the precursor to the NSA called The Black Chamber:

In light of recent news regarding AT&T and other telcoms providing all your phone records to the NSA, I read this passage tonight from James Bamford’s enlightening (and rather terrifying) 1982 expose of the National Security Agency, The Puzzle Palace, and was rather stunned. It describes the precursor to the NSA, Herbert Osborne Yardley’s Black Chamber, an organization devoted to deciphering telegraph communications as part of the war effort, an organization that was part State Department and part War Department:

“With the end of the war [WWI] came another problem: the Radio Communication Act of 1912 was again in effect. This act provided that the government would guarantee the secrecy of communications:

No person or persons engaged in or having knowledge of the operation of any station or stations shall divulge or publish the contents of any messages transmitted or received by such station, except to the person or persons to whom the same may be directed, or their authorized agent, or to another station employed to forward such message to its destination, unless legally required to do so by the court of competent jurisdiction or other competent authority.