August 28, 2007
By Vernon Horn
Trackedinamerica.org is a new web site that provides a short history of U.S. government surveillance in America from the colonial era to the present. It is divided into seven chapters: Pre-World War I, World War I, Pearl Harbor, McCarthy Era, Civil Rights, Sanctuary (for Latin Americans in the 1980s), and After 9/11. Each chapter includes a timeline, a short essay that provides a contextual framework for the period, and numerous links to various sources from government archives, legal documents, original photographs, and other documentary web sites. A number of historians provide audio commentary, most notably Gary Okihiro, Ellen Schrecker, Adam Green, Athan Theoharis, Christopher H. Pyle, and legal scholar Geoffrey Stone. In the chapters from Pearl Harbor onward, there are also interviews with those who have been spied on. From the interview pages, it is also possible to navigate through the site thematically. Themes include “Facing the Government,” “Stifling Dissent,” “Anti-war,” and “Corralled”—suspicion based on ethnic heritage or political loyalties. The site also has a section for educators with lesson plans for the classroom.
All in all, this is a valuable web site that highlights common themes and also gives credence to the old adage that "the more things change, the more they stay the same."