This story has a simple message: The system that is supposed to maintain the balance between secrets and civil liberties has broken down. Many believed that it already had, but Feinstein, for good reason, had argued that even if changes needed to be made, the essential relationship between her committee and the agencies it oversees was operating within bounds. What she described Tuesday was a total lack of trust on both sides. The level of trust was so low that people may have felt it was necessary to break the law to fulfill their obligations. That’s not just bad for this particular relationship; it throws the balance between the two branches into even greater turmoil than it was already in.
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Dickerson is Slate’s chief political correspondent and author of “On Her Trail.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.