Tom Tomorrow Spin cartoon from 1994 predicted Patriot Act, NSA surveillance.
This Cartoon From 20 Years Ago Was Disturbingly Prescient
Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Dec. 26 2013 2:00 PM

This Political Cartoon From 20 Years Ago Was Disturbingly Prescient


Dan Perkins, aka Tom Tomorrow, penned the cartoon above in 1994 for Spin magazine.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer. Email him at or follow him on Twitter.

At the time, the cartoon might have seemed a little hysterical. Remember, this was pre-warrantless-wiretapping, pre-Guantánamo, pre-Snowden, and pre-Obama-assassinating-American-citizens-with-drones, sans trial. Rather, the context for the cartoon was a new NSA gadget called the “Clipper chip” that would have made it easier for government officials to listen in on phone conversations, provided they had the legal authority to do so. (The technology was never widely adopted, and the NSA soon abandoned it.)  


Now? Not so hysterical. But hey, at least the third panel isn't strictly accurate, yet.

The funny thing is that you could never print this cartoon today—not because it’s too subversive, but because it’s too obvious. It no longer reads as satire.

And is it just me, or does the cop in the final panel look a little like a certain commander-in-chief?

You can view the full-size image, along with Tomorrow’s more recent cartoons, on his website,

Hat tip: Bruce Schneier

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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