President Bush’s illegal domestic spying program is not the first instance of the government spying on American citizens in our history. To understand how the present controversy will probably play out, we need look no farther back than the Ford Administration:
After World War II, the NSA’s predecessor, the Army Signal Security Agency, sent representatives to the major telegraph companies and asked for cooperation in getting access to all telegraph traffic entering or leaving the United States. The companies complied, over the objections of their lawyers. When these practices came to light as part of a 1976 investigation into intelligence abuses, President Gerald R. Ford extended executive privilege, which shielded those involved from testifying publicly, to the telecommunications companies on the recommendation of then chief-of-staff Dick Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to the Project on Government Oversight.