Journal Article - Journal of Applied History

Spying on Americans: US Intelligence, Race Protests, and Dissident Movements

| 2021

An Applied History Analysis


Protests against racism erupt in cities across America. A White House, under siege, believes a vast conspiracy is at work, and, to uncover it, instigates a policy to spy on Americans. This is not the United States in 2020, but half a century earlier. Using a wealth of declassified records, this article explores a domestic intelligence collection program (CHAOS) instigated by two successive US administrations and conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency in the late 1960s and early 1970s. By studying this historical chapter, we observe how quickly an agency, equipped with intrusive powers, can infringe on Americans civil liberties when tasked by a US president. Applying this case to our contemporary context, this article argues that robust whistleblower procedures, as well as informal oversight, are powerful defenses against such abuses. Understanding why CHAOS occurred is an essential public policy first step to prevent similar abuses happening again.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Walton, Calder. "Spying on Americans: US Intelligence, Race Protests, and Dissident Movements." Journal of Applied History, vol. 3. (2021): 47–71 .