Government Surveillance: The Essential Reading List

A collection of reports and analyses to get you caught up on this week's scandals
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U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte walks past a video screen during a visit by U.S. President George W. Bush at the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Maryland, January 25, 2006. (Reuters)

So, the government has been spying on us -- sort of. Which is both brand new information and something we have (kinda, sorta) known about, in retrospect, for years.

There are two different, but intimately related, stories that broke this week: the first was the news that the NSA, through a secret court established by the PATRIOT Act, has been collecting metadata about Americans' phone calls -- both foreign and domestic. The second was the news that the NSA and the FBI have been running a program called PRISM that has involved the agencies "tapping directly" into the servers of tech behemoths like Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft. (While The Guardian and Washington Post may have broken the stories, both scoops have been confirmed by other news agencies.)

So, all in all, what are we to make of all this? Given that we've had hints and full reports about the government surveillance of our communications for years now, how much of this week's news is, actually, news?

Below are some stories to get you caught up on all the chaos. (Think of it like a primer for the course that is Government Surveillance 101.) Click the links, or import the entire list to your mobile reading device of choice for a portable ebook. And if there are any pieces of essential reading that we've left out, let me know at mgarber@theatlantic.com, and I'll add them in.


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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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