Abuse of Power

How Cold War Surveillance and Secrecy Policy Shaped the Response to 9/11

Athan G. Theoharis
Book Cover

PB: $33.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0665-1
Publication: Apr 11

HC: $81.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-0664-4
Publication: Apr 11

Ebook: $33.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0666-8
Publication: Apr 11

232 pages
6 x 9

An argument that domestic surveillance erodes civil liberties and fails to protect the country


Athan Theoharis, long a respected authority on surveillance and secrecy, established his reputation for meticulous scholarship with his work on the loyalty security program developed under Truman and McCarthy. In Abuse of Power, Theoharis continues his investigation of U.S. government surveillance and historicizes the 9/11 response.

Criticizing the U.S. government's secret activities and policies during periods of "unprecedented crisis," he recounts how presidents and FBI officials exploited concerns about foreign-based internal security threats.

Drawing on information sequestered until recently in FBI records, Theoharis shows how these secret activities in the World War II and Cold War eras expanded FBI surveillance powers and, in the process, eroded civil liberties without substantially advancing legitimate security interests.

Passionately argued, this timely book speaks to the costs and consequences of still-secret post-9/11 surveillance programs and counterintelligence failures. Ultimately, Abuse of Power makes the case that the abusive surveillance policies of the Cold War years were repeated in the government's responses to the September 11 attacks.

Table of Contents


1 A New Intelligence Paradigm: Surveillance and Preventive Detention
2 A History of FBI Wiretapping Authority
3 The Politics of Wiretapping
4 A Commitment to Secrecy
5 The Limits of Counterintelligence
6 The Politics of Counterintelligence
7 Ignoring the Lessons of the Cold War


About the Author(s)

Athan Theoharis is Emeritus Professor of History at Marquette University and author of twenty books, including The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition and Chasing Spies: How the FBI Failed in Counterintelligence But Promoted the Politics of McCarthyism.