Jonathan Freedland presents the programme which looks at the past behind the present. In light of the recent revelations by whistleblower, Edward Snowden, Jonathan and his guests explore international surveillance. The documents leaked by the former US National Security Agency contractor reveal that America and Britain have been tapping into global internet communication. Germany is outraged.
Almost 100 years ago, Britain sat astride the global telegraph and cable industry. During WW1, Churchill set up a small team of cryptographers and put them in Room 40 at the Admiralty in Whitehall. Their mission: to intercept all telegram traffic. In January 1917, whilst snooping on the US diplomatic cable they intercepted a German telegram from the German foreign ambassador, Arthur Zimmerman which would alter the course of WW1. One big problem - how to present the information to the US ambassador who had no idea that Britain was tapping into its friendly nations' communication systems.
Joining Jonathan Freedland are: Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee; historian Professor Edward Higgs; BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Corera; Thomas Kielinger, London Correspondent for Die Welt; Shami Chakrabati, director of Liberty. Actor Geoffrey Streatfeild who played IT supremo Callum in BBC 1 'Spooks' is the reader.
Producer: Sarah Taylor.