The NSA has a long history of tapping into overseas communications, and it turns out that some of its targets have been widely known public figures. Newly declassified documents show that both Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali were targets of NSA surveillance during a portion of the Vietnam War, from 1967 to 1973, reports The Washington Post. A New York Times columnist and a Washington Post satirist also landed on the list, alongside two senators.
The surveillance effort reportedly traces back to a request from then-president Lyndon B. Johnson, who wanted to find out if the domestic antiwar movement was "receiving help from abroad." During that six-year timeframe, over 1,600 people were under the NSA's watch as part of a surveillance program named Minaret. The program caused some controversy within the NSA itself, with some NSA officials apparently calling it "disreputable if not outright illegal." The Post has more details on the early spying effort, while a full report on the declassified documents is available at The National Security Archive.