Surveillance in America: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, and the Law. Edited by Pam Dixon. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2016. 2 vols. $189 (ISBN 978-1-4408-4054-8). E-book available (978-1-4408-4055-5), call for pricing.

Pam Dixon is founder and executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization which spotlights privacy issues in world affairs. As editor of the Surveillance in America, she brings together 115 entries written by 42 contributors. Topics covered by this resource include key court rulings, legislation, surveillance programs and initiatives, and efforts (such as encryption) to subvert snooping. A detailed chronology helps place issues in historical context, while bibliographies for each entry spur the reader to read further. The second volume of this encyclopedia showcases primary documents, intended—as Dixon puts it in the introduction—“to help readers understand how surveillance practices and priorities have changed since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on American soil” (xxvi). (Given their currency, then, most of the primary documents would be relatively easy to locate online.)

Only two comparable works have been published in the past decade. William Staples’s Encyclopedia of Privacy (Greenwood 2006) contains more than two hundred entries authored by more than one hundred contributors. However, its scope goes well beyond surveillance, with entries addressing the privacy issues involving health and family matters. Staples’s work is also now out of date. As Dixon notes in her introduction, the debate surrounding “government surveillance and its impact on privacy” was “intensified in 2013” when whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had been keeping tabs on millions of law-abiding Americans (xxv). Another broader work is Civil Liberties and the State (ABC-CLIO 2010), which is essentially an anthology of primary sources and contains no analytical essays. Therefore, Surveillance in America can boast of being more comprehensive and more current than similar works on the market.

One possible drawback to this resource it is its lack of historical perspective. While the editor clearly states that the book focuses on “all the major issues” surrounding surveillance and privacy (xxv), some readers will want to see more entries dealing with the history of surveillance practices. To take one example, there is no entry exploring the impact of political surveillance carried out over decades by hundreds of local and state police “Red Squads.” This, despite the fact that by 1975 over three-quarters of FBI intelligence files contained information from such sources. Nor is there any reference to the landmark Handschu agreement (1985), which effectively reined in the intelligence-gathering practices of the New York City Police Department. While incomplete coverage of the aforementioned areas may make it inappropriate for more advanced researchers, this book is recommended for public libraries and undergraduate collections.—Seth Kershner, Public Services Librarian, Northwestern Connecticut Community College, Winsted, Connecticut


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