Of course the biggie for everyone still seems to be the metadata program. That's the one where the government collects date, time and number on all domestic phone calls. As the editorial mentions, there are conflicting court rulings on the constitutionality of the program. If there is going to be a final word on it, that will have to come from the Supreme Court.
Next they point out that NSA "broke federal privacy laws, or exceeded their authority thousands of times according to their own internal audit." That the NYT editorial board sees this as such an egregious outrage is interesting given that further down they link to their own paper's statement about it:
It found that there had been no willful violations of the rules, and that fewer than 1 percent of queries by analysts involved errors.The next two have to do with NSA breaking into data centers to collect information and efforts to undermine encryption systems. Sorry, but this brings a big "Duh" from me. If we're going to task the intelligence community with spying on telecommunication activities, this is what they're going to do.
A biggie for lots of folks these days is that James Clapper lied to Congress when asked about the metadata program. As I see it, he was asked this question in an open session of Congress. If it was legal for him to talk about it in public, then why didn't the Senators who were so concerned talk about it? Perhaps Clapper should be called on the carpet for lying. But wouldn't he have technically been equally complicit if he had disclosed classified information in a public forum? Shouldn't the spotlight also be placed on Senator Wyden for asking a question that he knew it would be illegal for Clapper to answer?
Next comes the claim that the FISA Court ruled one of the NSA programs to be unconstitutional. Lets review this one more time. In Oct. 2011 the court ruled that an NSA program did not contain sufficient safeguards to protect the privacy of Americans whose information was collected while surveilling foreign targets. By November of that same year, NSA had returned with more stringent protections and the Court ruled the program constitutional.
The final point is mind-boggling in that it simply states that a federal judge ruled the metadata program unconstitutional. But the very same editorial had earlier pointed out that another judge had reached the opposite conclusion.
All of this belies their final statement:
When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government.I'd say that the NYT editorial board needs to rethink their claim that "government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law." Reforms might well be worth pursuing. But accusing people of breaking the law is a serious charge that they didn't even come close to demonstrating.