Anyone paying close attention to the news would have suspected, a long time ago, that something like this type of spying and data collection was going on. Indeed, I regularly commented on such here at EPJ, most recently on May 4, in a post titled, Are All Telephone Calls in the US Recorded by the Government?, I wrote:
I have always suspected that they are. Now, there is evidence this is the case. Glenn Greenwald reports:
The real capabilities and behavior of the US surveillance state are almost entirely unknown to the American public because, like most things of significance done by the US government, it operates behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy. But a seemingly spontaneous admission this week by a former FBI counterterrorism agent provides a rather startling acknowledgment of just how vast and invasive these surveillance activities are.[...]On Wednesday night, Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could[...]
On Thursday night, Clemente again appeared on CNN, this time with host Carol Costello, and she asked him about those remarks. He reiterated what he said the night before but added expressly that "all digital communications in the past" are recorded and stored.Notice that the above Greenwald commentary goes beyond his current report that is causing all the focus, his current report being that Verizon provided data to NSA of all phone calls made over its networks during a given period. Thus, it appears we have something of a limited hangout here by USG. The purpose is unkown, though I suspect what may be going on is that the USG may be wanting to use in court cases some of the data they are collecting. BUT in order to do this, they have to acknowledge they have the data in the first place, which may be what the leak to Greenwald is all about (and the leaks to WaPo about USG tracking internet data).
Now that the public is aware this data is collected, Congress will hold hearings, not mind you, resulting in the end of the practice, but to ultimately set "guidelines" on when it can be used.
Let's see how this all plays out, but now that this data collection is being made public, to me the real danger is that the government is now going to be able to openly use it against its subjects--which may have been the purpose of the leaks in the first place.