The New Republic looks at how newly declassified documents by the Justice Department explain "the story of how the surveillance state grew into a monster."
Although President Obama could have reined in the surveillance state, as we all know, he did not. The snowballing privacy abuses that Snowden exposed, starting with the PRISM program and culminating most recently in the disclosure of the National Security Agencys encryption-cracking efforts, have threatened U.S. constitutional values and foreign policy interests without making us safer.
In expanding the surveillance state and the White Houses wartime authorities, Obama has continued a grand and unfortunate presidential tradition?fresh details of which have quietly come to light. They are found in a volume of 66 previously confidential legal opinions, issued between 1934 and 1976, that the Justice Departments Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) released over the summer. Bearing a title that is wonky even by Washington standards,1 the book nevertheless is riveting reading, amounting to a secret history of the rise of the national security leviathan. But just as the book shows how that apparatus has been built up, it also tells a second story: of how public outrage, loud and sustained, can tear it back down.
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