Spying is to discover by close observation. Such activity has historically and continues to be critical to the survival of the United States. To successfully uncover the identity and intent of terrorist embedded within a large population that close observation must be of the largest portion of that population possible. The one restriction is that this observation, spying, must also be within the Constitution.
The Fourth Amendment specifically states that we shall be secure from unreasonable search and seizures in our person, house, papers and effects.
Other than this, the Constitution does not mention or allude to any right of privacy.
This protection does not bestow a sacrosanct status that extends into perpetuity nor bestow a right to be free from all types of observation. Once we release possession or control of things our personal rights to protection of them ends.
Words are obviously not privileged when spoken in range of unintended listeners, who are within easy hearing distance. The cognitive memory of a verbal communication is the property of the listener to do with as they wish even when it is overheard through no nefarious or privileged means.
Electronic communications, by cell phone, microwave and/or satellite, when broadcast into the wide ranging universal atmosphere are no longer proprietary. These transmissions can be intercepted by anyone without violating the originator’s or recipient’s right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure of their person, house, papers or effects.
Individuals have no inherent claim to Fourth Amendment protection of records or information about transactions created and kept by others. The records are created by and the property of the record keeper. There is the exception of some medical and lawyer’s records.
It is not improper for law enforcement agencies to search sales records looking for people buying excessive amounts of certain materials. The list is lengthy, fertilizers for explosives, sugar for brewing unlicensed liquor, certain materials for the manufacturing of illicit drugs, etc.
To ferret out those with bad intentions, they by necessity look at the records of the innocent. Credit card purchases and phone records are legally searched to put people at a place and location on a specific date. Phone records are routinely used to prove contact with a specific person or persons.
It is just as proper for an agency to collect and search communication records, that is communication companies’ sales records, for those who are in contact with known or suspected terrorist.
There is no legal limit on the amount of records searched and, there is no legal or other requirement for the agency to reveal the value or success of such searches.
Edward Snowden has not revealed any huge NSA violations of the Constitution but has illegally revealed intelligence gathering sources. Mr. Snowden has committed illegal acts that, according to reports, could have deadly consequences. He is not legally or morally deserving of any mitigating consideration but should suffer the full wrath of the law.