Prism of Interest

Prime time has long had its eye on the surveillance state

Giovanni Rufino / Warner Bros.

Computer genius Finch (Michael Emerson) is the father of a massive intel program in Person of Interest.

The recent news about the government snooping into phone records and Internet communications may have come as a shock. It may, if you'd followed national-security reporting since 9/11, have been shocking only in its extent.

Or you may have assumed it was going on all along, depending on how many TV spy shows you watch.

Intelligence and surveillance have been part of prime-time drama since the Cold War, and newer dramas like Homeland have complicated the theme by interrogating the trade-offs and violations that might be made in the name of security. But also, before news of the Prism project (a...

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