This piece from Robin Lustig, called 'When secrets mustn't be kept secret' is quite the best thing I have read on civil liberties, the NSA and the whole Snowden affair - well probably anywhere. It is a response to the speech by Sir Andrew Parker, Director General of MI5 to the United Services Institute earlier this week. I commend it to you wholeheartedly. Here are a few highlights but do go to Robins site and read the whole thing. It's absolutely worth it.
"At the centre of the mass of material that has emerged is not the allegation that the security people are monitoring everyone -- which would be patently absurd -- but that they have the capability to monitor anyone. It's not the same thing at all, as Mr Parker knows full well. He is, as you would expect, a master of the "non-denial denial", in other words, he is categorically denying something that hasn't been alleged"
"Let's pretend this discussion was taking place in a pre-internet world. Out of the woodwork comes a security service insider who tells us that MI5 have entered into a secret agreement with all the country's major key manufacturers that enables them to open the front door of any house in the land, to enter any home, and to rifle through any filing cabinet and desk drawer. No search warrant required, no oversight in place"
"I don't expect them to tell us every time they tap into the email account of a suspected jihadi bomber. I really don't need to know which websites they're monitoring, or which Google search terms set alarm bells ringing at GCHQ. What I do need to know is that someone, somewhere, outside the security bubble, does know, and has authorised the surveillance. In theory, that's what is meant to happen now. In practice, well, let's say there's room for doubt …"
Do read the whole thing, it's great.
As a final addendum I noticed this statement from David Cameron yesterday - and tweeted my reply. here it is.