The Obama administration threw open the curtain on years of Bush-era secrets Monday, revealing anti-terrorism memos that claimed exceptional search-and-seizure powers and divulging that the CIA had destroyed 92 videotapes of interrogations and other treatment of terrorism suspects.
The Justice Department released nine legal opinions showing that following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration determined that certain constitutional rights would not apply during the coming fight. Within two weeks, government lawyers were already discussing ways to wiretap U.S. conversations without warrants.
The Bush administration eventually abandoned many of the legal conclusions, but the documents themselves had been closely held. By releasing them, President Barack Obama continued a housecleaning of the previous administration's most contentious policies.
"Too often over the past decade, the fight against terrorism has been viewed as a zero-sum battle with our civil liberties," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech a few hours before the documents were released. "Not only is that school of thought misguided; I fear that in actuality it does more harm than good."