Here’s the problem with the whole NSA phone record collection story. If the administration thought this was all above board, why didn’t they come out and just tell everyone that they were doing it? The argument that: “We’re revealing our capabilities to our enemies!” doesn’t hold water in this case. You’re telling me that it would come as a shock that we have the amazing technology to ask Verizon for a list of phone calls? I don’t know if anyone else knows this, but did you know you can see a list of your phone records on Verizon’s website? I know! The technology is astounding! No one is saying that the administration detail the algorithms, etc. behind analyzing this data. That’s a different subject, and one which would be fine to keep secret. What should NOT be kept secret is the power that the government believes that it has. The government should ALWAYS be required to come out and say: “We believe that under the Patriot Act/Constitution/Foo that we have the authority to do XYZ.” Again, how they do XYZ is not something we need to know, whether they think they can do XYZ IS something that we have a right to know.
In the end, the most scary thing is, I think the argument the government is making is actually correct: this leak really DOES reveal a capability of the government that we didn’t know about. We all thought they weren’t doing this not because they couldn’t do it technologically, but because they couldn’t do it constitutionally.