Lincoln Had a Surveillance State, Too
But it went away after the war: professor
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2013 10:30 AM CDT
An image made from an 1863 glass plate negative of President Abraham Lincoln.   (AP Photo/Abraham Lincoln Book Shop Inc.)

(Newser) – In its day, it was about as high-tech as surveillance got: Abe Lincoln let war secretary Edwin Stanton reroute the nation's telegraph lines through his office in 1862 so he could keep tabs on, and control, the flow of information about the war from generals, journalists, and ordinary citizens, writes media studies professor David Mindich in the New York Times. At one point, a House panel grew so worried about the "telegraphic censorship" that it called for restraint. Eventually, however, the war ended, and so did the eavesdropping.

"Part of the reason this calculus was acceptable to me was that the trade-offs were not permanent," writes Mindich. Similar surveillance, ever more high-tech, happened in subsequent wars, but it always receded when the war ended. Which brings us to Edward Snowden and the war on terror. "If history is any guide, ending the seemingly endless state of war is the first step in returning our civil liberties," writes Mindich. Because given the state of snooping today, Stanton himself might be aghast at the potential for abuse. Click for the full column.

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Showing 3 of 43 comments
DarthHater
Jul 7, 2013 10:31 PM CDT
Actually I'm still pretty angry about the Lincoln thing. I didn't even see that P.O.S. Obama Propaganda Movie about him. Hell, if ole John Wilkes had been a little earlier on the draw, I'd be yelling about Obama Screwing up my favorite hedge instead of Screwing Up my Favorite Country.
jayjay033
Jul 7, 2013 3:22 PM CDT
Nice try Newser Staff
KennyLLC
Jul 7, 2013 2:46 PM CDT
Abraham Lincoln was a true dictator. By suspending habeus corpus and seizing printing facilities up north, he sought to control information against a free press,and against freedom of speech, all against constitutional rights. This is old news. So are the telegraph lines. Confederates destroyed them in southern territory and therefore his capability of monitoring the south. What people DON"T know about old "Honest Abe" is that he also declared war without full congressional consent, to supposedly "presere the union". But when a walk-out was conducted by southern congressmen, the meeting was not legally convened, and the union was truly dissolved. Therefore, he had no union to preserve ! His call to some 70,000 troops to attack at Virginia and South Carolina was also unconstitutional, thus the answer to that call by union soldiers becoming "The War Between the States". If not for state-militias, Lincoln would never have won his intended war against the south, nevertheless, later presidents turned the state mililtias into "The U.S. National Guard", in order to unconstitutionally use them abroad and to police U.S. citizens in times of turmoil. These militias were intended by the founding fathers of the constitution for state use to keep usurpers and heavy government from getting too big for their britches. Lincoln truly got the cannon ball rolling in unconstitutional presidential activities against the American people. Obama just popped out of Lincolns jack-in-the-box in the 21st century with the same mentality and intent.