In 1862, Lincoln authorized sweeping control over the American telegraph infrastructure for Edwin Stanton, his secretary of war. Telegraphs were re-routed through his office, and Stanton used his power to spy on Americans, arrest journalists, and even control what was or wasn't sent. It was a critical tool in wartime, but a massive invasion of privacy that surely angered citizens.
Mindich argues that despite the huge differences in scope and technology, the Lincoln-era example is a neat comparison to the current war on terror. For those that take issue with the current NSA procedures, he says, the only real solution is to end the war — that's the only way Stanton's grasp of the telegraphs was loosed. "As the war ended, the emergency measures were rolled back. Information — telegraph and otherwise — began to flow freely again." Until this war is over, Mindich cautions, invasive governmental overreaching is a fact of life; whether it's Western Union or Microsoft, Lincoln or Obama, that's how it's always been.