By Monica Blaylock | Motherboard

Government surveillance and the tapping of communication cables is not a new threat to public privacy. Edward Snowden may have brought to light some of the NSA’s more recent eavesdropping strategies, but citizen surveillance in America has a much older history. In fact, tapping civilian communication lines dates all the way back to the late 1800s and America's occupation of the Phillipines, which in part served as a test-run for the US to figure out how they could create a surveillance state in the burgeoning information age.

Long before whistleblower Edward Snowden or any mention of the PRISM program, people were intercepting one-another’s phone calls. Early phone systems required a human operator to patch through a call, and that human connection made it very easy for a third-party to eavesdrop. But it wasn’t until the creation of operator-free phones that we saw the invention of modern cable tapping.

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