The initial defense of the NSA spying program echoed by everyone from Congress to the agency heads to the White House was that the program was “legal.” But newly declassified material shows that even the secret court stacked with Chief Justice Roberts’ judges recognized the NSA was conducting a domestic spying program when the NSA gathered thousands of Americans’ emails.

For several years, the National Security Agency unlawfully gathered tens of thousands of e-mails and other electronic communications between Americans as part of a now-revised collection method, according to a 2011 secret court opinion.

The redacted 85-page opinion, which was declassified by U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday, states that, based on NSA estimates, the spy agency may have been collecting as many as 56,000 “wholly domestic” communications each year.

The FISA court opinion demonstrates at least that we did have a domestic spying program. And no, once again, that is not Constitutional.

In a strongly worded opinion, the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court expressed consternation at what he saw as a pattern of misleading statements by the government and hinted that the NSA possibly violated a criminal law against spying on Americans.

“For the first time, the government has now advised the court that the volume and nature of the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe,” John D. Bates, then the surveillance court’s chief judge, wrote in his Oct. 3, 2011, opinion.

So they even lie to their own secret court? I guess Congress should feel better about Clapper’s perjury.

The reality has come shining through – you cannot have this much unchecked power and have a free society. The power will be abused, it will be misused, and the more secret the power is the less accountable those are who wield it. The NSA, if nothing else, has proven this point repeatedly. They have tasked themselves the right to spy on whomever they want whenever they want despite Constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Is Edward Snowden a whistleblower yet?