During the heated days of the Cold War in the '40s, '50s and '60s, much of the intelligence effort was focused on keeping track of the Russians' military activity, their progress in different areas of technology and naturally their diplomatic contacts with neighboring nations and allies. A lot of attention was given to monitoring the Soviet Union’s creep into Western Europe, and finding ways of combating its progress. Much of the information gathered, and any actions or decisions based on it, had to be executed within the shortest timeframe possible. Because of the ever-looming nuclear threat, where nuclear missiles could be airborne in minutes, any early warning of such a launch or an indication of a pending launch would enable the Western allies to take "appropriate measures".
The horrifying implications of such a nuclear holocaust have been more than enough incentive for the Western allies to form an alliance, formalized into the UKUSA agreement in 1948 and aimed primarily against the USSR. The UKUSA agreement binds America’s National Security Agency, the NSA, New Zealand's largest intelligence agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau, GCSB, Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, the Communications Security Establishment, CSE in Canada, and the Defense Signals Directorate, DSD, in Australia together to form a worldwide intelligence network.
During that time, however, the Watergate scandal uncovered that US law enforcement and intelligence agencies were targeting US citizens for surveillance based on their political affiliations. This raised a lot of controversy concerning to what extent the NSA or any other government agency were allowed to gather information and where this information could be used. In hearings held in 1975, Senator Frank Church, in one of his closing statements, cautioned against the technological power of the NSA:
‘That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no America would have any privacy left. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny. There would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capacity of this technology.’
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