The N.S.A.’s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before, according to government and industry officials, yet that alliance is strained by legal worries and the fear of public exposure.
When you fear the public finding out about your allegedly programs being discovered, it's a pretty clear sign you've crossed the line.
And it isn't done to just "fight the war on terror":
To detect narcotics trafficking, for example, the government has been collecting the phone records of thousands of Americans and others inside the United States who call people in Latin America, according to several government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program remains classified.
As usual Glenn Greenwald sums it up best:
The vast bulk of those on whom the Government spies have never been accused, let alone convicted, of having done anything wrong. One can dismiss those observations as hyperbole if one likes -- people want to believe that their own government is basically benevolent and "tyranny" is something that happens somewhere else -- but publicly available facts simply compel the conclusion that, by definition, we live in a lawless surveillance state, and most of our political officials are indifferent to, if not supportive of, that development.
That's precisely why our political class is about to bestow amnesty on telecoms which broke multiple laws in how they enabled the government to spy on us, even though what the telecoms did -- on purpose and for years -- is unquestionably illegal. Our political leaders in both parties plainly want this limitless surveillance to continue, and they don't think that telecoms do anything wrong even when they work with the government in spying on Americans in ways that are against the law.
And they're saying that explicitly. The legislation jointly created and about to be enacted by Jay Rockefeller, Dick Cheney, Congressional Republicans and Harry Reid -- with a vital assist from the Jane-Harman-led "Blue Dogs" in the House -- is all designed to conceal and protect this state of affairs and to enable it to grow.
Democrats need to be "better" than Republicans, it ill not do for them to be "not as bad as" Republicans.