It seems the press is pounding the streets with the story that the NSA is evesdropping on Americans. Again. Several bloggers have already pegged this story as being quite similar to one that dropped a few months ago, related to the NSA evesdropping on international calls to or from Al Qaeda members. Others have explained the legal arguments used to convince judges it's legal. Lots of panties are bunched.
Those of you who have been reading this site for some time will not be surprised that I oppose such monitoring. That we are at war with a terrorist organization does not materially change that fact; blanket surveillance is wrong regardless of justification. I'm perfectly OK with evesdropping on conversations with terrorists so long as the letter of the law, including the Constitution, is followed; but blanket surveillance of Americans without probable cause is wrong. So, sure, I don't like what the NSA is doing.
I just don't see why it's suddenly news, at least without the sudden intervention of political expediency. You see, the NSA has been doing this for a long, long, long time. I first learned about it under the Clinton administration. I doubt it started there, or with Bush I before him. There's an article on the subject from 1988. It is the NSA's job to conduct traffic analysis and broad-scale surveillance, and the legal justifications to get around Constitutional limits were different then but the capabilities probably are not -- except that national technical means, as author Tom Clancy euphemized, have probably advanced significantly.
You'd think the reporters acting so outraged about this hadn't ever realized our intelligence apparatus had this capability. Maybe they hadn't. Ignorance or malice? It's hardly a new question to be asking about the news media these days, and that's just sad.
So why aren't I worked up about it? I recognize that nothing has really changed. Sure, I'd like surveillance programs like this to be shut down. Unfortunately I'm convinced this is a losing battle. It's much simpler, not to mention technically better, to simply encrypt everything. "Can't" trumps "not allowed to".