Research Programs: Public Scholars

Period of Performance

1/1/2018 - 12/31/2018

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

A History of Wiretapping in the United States

FAIN: FZ-256398-17

Brian Hochman
Georgetown University (Washington, DC 20057-0001)

Research and writing of a book on the history of public and private sector wiretapping and wiretapping technology since the 19th century.

All Ears: A History of Wiretapping in the United States explores an oft-overlooked truth of modern media history: that technologies for eavesdropping on communications have proliferated as rapidly as communications technologies themselves. Third parties tapped the earliest telegraph wires during the nineteenth century, and the nation's communications networks have been bugged ever since. Drawing on a wide range of primary source materials, the project uncovers the surprising history of wiretaps, bugs, and other eavesdropping technologies in the United States. In the process, it offers valuable historical perspective on an issue that remains hotly contested among pundits and policymakers today. By tracing a series of popular flash points in the history of wiretapping, the project ultimately demonstrates how the modern myth of communications privacy has depended, even thrived, on the reality of its technological infringement.

Media Coverage

"The Making of the Surveillance State' (Review)
Author(s): Andrew Lanham
Publication: The New Republic
Date: 1/21/2022

"Why The Privacy Wars Rage On" (Review)
Author(s): Jeannie Suk Gersen
Publication: The New Yorker
Date: 6/20/2022

"Only the Surveilling Technology Is New" (Review)
Publication: PopMatters
Date: 11/10/2022

"Wiretapping's Shift from a Criminal Tactic to a Law Enforcement Tool" (Review)
Publication: Washington Post
Date: 5/13/2022

Associated Products

The Listeners: A History of Wiretapping in the United States (Book)
Title: The Listeners: A History of Wiretapping in the United States
Author: Brian Hochman
Year: 2022
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: WorldCat entry (674249283)
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 674249283