"Snowden shouldn’t have been necessary. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or FISA Court), which evaluates Section 215 requests, is supposed to be interpreting the law to make sure that government surveillance doesn’t go outside of it. Congressional intelligence committees, which review the activities of the N.S.A., are supposed to be providing some oversight. The N.S.A. itself reports to the Department of Defense, which reports to the White House, all of which have dozens of lawyers, who are all supposed to apply the law. The government, in other words, is supposed to be watching itself, especially in matters of national security, which are, by necessity, shielded from daylight. The fact that it took thirteen years, and one whistle-blower, to expose a program that is conclusively ineffective and, according to one federal appeals court, illegal, points to a problem much larger than any one program. It suggests that claims about what is necessary to prevent the next terrorist attack are too sacrosanct to require evidence. As the debate over Section 215 has played out over the past two years, it has become clear that the punishments for exaggerating the efficacy of surveillance programs and downplaying their privacy implications are just about nonexistent."