Peter Conolly-Smith



‘Reading Between the Lines’: The Bureau of Investigation, the United States Post Office, and Domestic Surveillance During World War

During the involvement of the United States in World War I, from 1917 to 1918, the Bureau of Investigation (the predecessor to today’s Federal Bureau of Investigation) orchestrated the largest-ever domestic surveillance effort in collaboration with the U.S. Post Office Department in U.S. history. Methods included wiretapping, the use of informants, and the monitoring of the mails. Confidential Bureau of Investigation memos and Post Office reports of the period show that World War I-era surveillance tactics established precedents that set into motion domestic spying methods still practiced today.

FBI, U.S. Post Office Department, domestic surveillance/spying, World War I, Espionage Act, Trading with the Enemy Act, Sedition Act

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 36, No. 1 (2009): 7-24


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