6. Playing Big Brother to over 300,000 U.S. citizens decades before the Internet
Thanks to Edward Snowden, many Americans now feel like the protagonist of a Lifetime channel thriller—we thought our government loved us, only to discover that it has a dangerously paranoid side we didn't see.
And it turns out this has been going on for longer than we realized. Back when the Cold War was at its coldest (or is it hottest? How does that work, really?), peace groups, women's liberation movements, and the Black Panthers were starting to worry the folks in the CIA, who thought they might have ties to foreign communists. That would completely ruin that Vietnam thing they were working on! Operation CHAOS, which sounds way too much like a supervillain collective, was established to tackle this problem.
Over the course of the program, agents tapped phones, monitored correspondence, and infiltrated student groups, amassing records on more than 300,000 civilians. The project was only shut down when the media attention surrounding the Watergate break-in threatened to blow the lid off the whole thing. When the truth was revealed in a New York Times article, the government conducted a full-scale investigation and concluded that Operation CHAOS had involved "improper accumulation of material on legitimate domestic activities."