The first thing to realize is that our government is monitoring us on a level which only crazy (tinfoil hat) people have speculated.
There have been accusations and scanty evidence presented for years. There were some who believed this was in view when the Patriot Act passed, but I remember the government assuring us this sort of thing would not happen.
There is a good overview of the history of the program at the ACLU. There are many technical details of the program at Ars.
Highlights from the ACLU:
- The challenge to the program was started when the program was discovered in 2005 (under President Bush).
- Aug 2006, a district court ruled the program unconstitutional
- July 2007, the 6th Circuit Court overturned that decision
- Feb 2008, the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal
"the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case, ruling the plaintiffs in the case - which includes scholars, journalists, and national nonprofit organizations - had no standing to sue because they could not state with certainty that they have been wiretapped by the NSA."The implicit claim here is that the surveillance was limited. It was not applied to everyone, everywhere. When asked for details as to who could be monitored (under what conditions, to what extent, or for how long) - we were told this information was classified (in effect, "trust us").
It was only when one man chose to reveal the classified details that we were able to discover that the government could not be trusted.
Their secret implementation of a secret interpretation of a secret law was in violation of a plain reading of the Constitution.