(Yahoo!News) Almost no one noticed when the book was quietly released this summer. It has perhaps the most benumbing title in publishing history. Yet inside this volume of previously confidential legal opinions is the story of how the surveillance state grew into a monster.

The alternate reality

Imagine the past five years of the Obama administration as they might have been. In this alternate universe, the national security state expanded by the Bush administration is disciplined by appropriate legal and constitutional constraints. The new president, despite technological advances that create vastly enlarged possibilities for ubiquitous surveillance, implements the basic reforms he had championed as a freshman senator from Illinois, protecting the privacy of innocent Americans without compromising the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to track possible terrorists.

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