Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Short History of Wiretapping

Wiretapping has been around almost since the invention of the telegraph. 

Union and Confederate soldiers intercepted one another’s telegraph wires during the Civil War, scraping off a small piece of insulation and splicing their own line to the enemy’s. 

Later, private detectives spied for clients. The use of a wiretap in a Connecticut divorce case in the 1880s led that state to ban the practice in 1889. News services stole one another’s articles. The use of a wiretap to convey false cotton prices in London, a plot aimed at stock speculators, set off a panic in New Orleans in 1899.

But in the postwar 19th century, much wiretapping of telegraphs and, later, telephones was carried out by crooks trying to cheat other crooks.