A number of articles on Wikipedia reveal this is not all new to Edward Snowden.
According to the Baltimore Sun (link is now dead, but available on the Wayback machine), there was a program called ThinThread which might have been the beginning of the panopticon. It was not as egregious as the current systems, although I would not say it is legal.
ThinThread was discontinued, in favor of a more aggressive program (Trailblazer). It continued to monitor everyone, and eliminated any attempt at privacy protection:
"'They basically just disabled the [privacy] safeguards,' said one intelligence official."
"In 2003, the NSA IG (not the DoD IG) had declared Trailblazer an expensive failure. It had cost more than $1 billion."
Also of interest is the man Thomas Andrews Drake. He was concerned about privacy violations, and sought to protest the Trailblazer program. He eventually discussed non-classified information with a reporter. The result? FBI agents broke into his home and pointed guns at his family. He was pressured into pleading guilty, and to reveal other potential whistle-blowers. He was charged, and eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.