James Bamford is a jounalist and author and has written copiously about US Intelligence
Agencies. According to what I've read, his work is respected as being accurate.
Here's the link to his recent article in the Washington Post:
There have been numerous excellent diaries on the current NSA scandal and Snowden including several currently in the Rec list. Bamford's article appears factual and should be read by those on both sides of the arguments that have developed here.
My own brief thoughts appear below:
Too much of what goes on at every level of government...local, state or federal is done in secret. No citizens or journalists allowed. There's always an excuse. "It's a personnel matter." "This matter is in flux, and we don't want people to be misled...." "It's a security issue...." "You're not cleared for that."
The truth, often, is that we're not supposed to know because we'd be outraged and cantankerous and the politicians/government would have to at least defend their misuse of the powers we've bestowed upon them.
In my opinion Snowden has done us the great service of telling us what's actually going on. It doesn't matter that we might have or should have guessed this is so. Now we know. If it's a crime to tell people they're being spied upon, it's only a crime because those in power made it a crime to tell the truth...in the name of "security" of course.
Meanwhile, the government's access to the citizenry's every electronic transaction, conversation, inquiry, search, or document continues unfettered. If we cannot know or control why and under what circumstances the goverment seeks this information, we certainly cannot control how the goverment will use it.