As the nation remembers Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic speech—and considers Edward Snowden's revelations—it's worth remembering that in his time, King was virtually "Public Enemy No. 1," points out Joe Johns at CNN. J. Edgar Hoover's FBI had King under heavy surveillance, bugging his hotel rooms, digging through his trash, and tapping his phones, recording all the sometimes sordid details of King's personal life. "Those were the bad old days when law enforcement exercised too much power, and everyday citizens had fewer rights."
But now is "a moment to ask whether government surveillance has gone full circle." The outgoing FBI director says that today's bureau frequently targets civil rights violators, and that surveillance is more tightly regulated. But the NSA has vast, secret capabilities through its PRISM program, and we know they've been used to spy on personal affairs. "If a guy like J. Edgar Hoover had access to a tool such as the NSA, it might have been hard for him to resist using it any way he saw proper. Even on a civil rights hero." Click for his full column. (Read more J. Edgar Hoover stories.)