If the discovery of secret data-gathering by government intelligence agencies has any silver linings, they may include the legislation that would declassify many secret court rulings in intelligence cases, proposed by Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
Lee's bill failed in the Senate in late 2012, when Congress reauthorized the courts created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. We've since learned that the secret court authorized data collection on all phone calls through major carriers, including phone number, location and duration of the calls, but not, according to the Obama administration, actual conversations.
It also backed PRISM, a program that allows the agency to delve into the online activities of people it believes pose a threat to the United States. That reportedly includes watching online conversations and even sometimes email messages as they are being typed. The NSA admits it sometimes unintentionally picks up information on Americans, but says its focus is on people who are not U.S. citizens. All this may be necessary in the battle against terrorism, but the vast secrecy is not.