There was much speculation yesterday about what sort of wiretaps the NSA was running, with the most plausible theory being that they were using some kind of wide-ranging filtering technology to spy on people en masse. Way back in 2000 there was much discussion of a system called Carnivore, under which the federal government would install hardware at ISPs to snoop on all of the email that the ISP processed, but general fear of widespread NSA snooping goes back a lot further than that.

The creators of uber-editor GNU Emacs foresaw this sort of technology and helpfully added the spook function to automatically add words to email messages that might be of interest to the NSA, under the theory that inserting chaff into the world of email would make such systems less useful. This functionality was added to Emacs 16 years ago.