1945 August 24

Spying on Americans: Project Shamrock Begins


Government spying on American citizens began during World War I and continued intermittently during the 1920s and early 1930s. It then resumed in earnest in the late 1930s as international tensions and fear of Communist subversion increased (see August 24, 1936). It then intensified during the post-World War II Cold War. One major effort was Project Shamrock, begun on this day, even before the creation of either the CIA or the NSA. Project Shamrock involved monitoring telegraphic messages entering and leaving the U.S. At its height, the program was monitoring 150,000 messages a month. Shamrock was exposed in 1975, and terminated by NSA director Lew Allen that year.

For major exposés of spying on Americans by U.S. intelligence agencies, see The New York Times coverage of CIA spying on Americans on December 22, 1974; the Times exposé of NSA spying under President George W. Bush, on December 16, 2005; and the first in a long series of  exposes of NSA spying under President Barack Obama on June 5, 2013.

Read a CIA account of Project Shamrock: https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/winter99-00/art4.html

Learn more about Project Shamrock from the Senate Church Committee (pp. 765–776: http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_book3.htm

Read: Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (2007)

Learn more: Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (2008)

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