Now that wiretapping has gone from analog to digital, lots of information is readily available to those seeded in the right spots to blackmail or destroy their rivals. From the NYT:
Currently, though, the show to watch is Turkey’s own political crisis, set off by a corruption scandal that has played out like a serial drama through the steady flow of leaked telephone conversations. The most sensational one was released Monday night, an apparently wiretapped conversation in which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, worried about an investigation closing in, is heard telling his son to get tens of millions of dollars out of the house. ...
Mr. Erdogan did not stay silent, though. His office quickly released a statement saying, “Phone recordings published on the Internet that are alleged to be between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his son are a product of an immoral montage that is completely false.”...
The corruption inquest represents the greatest challenge to Mr. Erdogan’s power in more than a decade. While it has been cast by the government as a conspiracy mounted by followers of the Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, Mr. Gulen himself has strongly denied any involvement.
However, most analysts say his adherents are entrenched within the Turkish state, where they are in a position to do a great deal of damage if they so choose. The crisis actually stems, many say, from a fallout between Mr. Gulen and Mr. Erdogan, who were once allies in the current Islamist governing coalition.
Yet, it remains hard to know much about the Gulenists themselves.. In 1999, just after he defected to the U.S., the Imam's enemies released a video of him telling his followers to move quietly in the arteries of the system until the time was ripe. Since then, he apparently learned his lesson to avoid electronic communications: little has surfaced documenting what exactly Gulen's intentions are. He seems mostly to communicate only orally with his followers visiting his fortified compound in Pennsylvania.
I often wonder what effects advances in technology will have on where important people work and live. Gulen seems to have gone to one extreme: take refuge in a country with a friendly, stable government and set up shop in the countryside 110 miles from JFK and only deal with trusted contacts face to face.
Of course, at high levels, big shots have been dealing with the implications of bugging technology for a long time. Here's a story from a 1982 Jack Anderson column:
There was a historical showdown, for example, between President Lyndon Johnson and Sen. Robert Kennedy in early 1968. It was before the New Hampshire primary; Johnson was still planning to run for re-election and Kennedy was thinking of challenging him. He asked for a private meeting with the president.
LBJ gave a terse order to Jack A. Albright, head of the White House Communications Agency: "Let's record the meeting."
"We put in one microphone," recalls Albright, now retired. "It was hidden in the table. It should have worked beautifully. Except it didn't."
Albright later figured out why.
Kennedy had brought a briefcase into the Oval Office, and kept it in his lap throughout the 30- to 40-minute meeting. "We weren't listening, of course," Albright explained. "All we could do was record. When we tried to play it back, all we got was a 'bzzzzeettt.'"
Kennedy, no stranger to White House bugging, had carried a jamming device in his briefcase. When LBJ heard the bad news, Albright recalls, he drawled: "That son-of-a-b----."
And of course there's the often-told (but perhaps apocryphal) story about the Canadian hockey team in Russia to play the Soviets in 1972 who were worried about bugs in their hotel room:
Phil Esposito, centre: The chandelier story goes that me and [Wayne] Cashman were looking for bugs [that KGB planted in players rooms]. We find a little lump under the rug. It was a box with a series of screws and we start unscrewing it until we hear a big crash below. We peep through the screw-hole downstairs and see that a chandelier in the hotel ballroom had crashed to the floor.