Supporters of the Obama administration and the national security state make three arguments in support of its widespread snooping. One is that what the NSA and other government agencies have been doing legal, something that Jennifer Stisa Granick and Christopher Jon Sprigman vigorously dispute. Another is that there is judicial oversight from the federal judges of the FISA court, which has been revealed as pretty much a rubber stamp rather than a watchdog.
The third is that Congress is briefed on the programs and that there is congressional oversight. Reporter Jeremy Scahill describes how this ‘oversight’ works and you will see that it is a joke since the people who receive these so-called briefings are given highly selective information and are sworn to secrecy about what they are told and so cannot really raise a stink even if they wanted to. This was why senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mark Udall (D-Colorado) had been reduced for years to dropping vague hints that the surveillance was far broader than anyone suspected.