Are you, a US citizen, calling cousin Ivor in Budapest, or reaching out to your old pen pal Yasmeen in Sydney? The National Security Agency (NSA) can listen in on your personal cellphone or read what you might be emailing him or her from your personal computer without telling you.
In 2008, the US Senate voted to let the NSA wiretap any US citizens' emails and phone calls internationally in the interest of national security so long as the government's purpose was to collect "foreign intelligence information". In 45 minutes, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought a constitutional challenge to the Fisa Amendments Act. As the Director of the ACLU's Center for Democracy, Jameel Jaffer, pointed out, the amendments:
"gave the NSA unprecedented power to monitor the international communications of people living in the United States — to listen to their phone calls, and to read their emails. 'We are targeting our own country', one NSA whistleblower observed."
Though some in Congress argued that citizens were safe from having their communications intercepted "unless you have al-Qaida on speed-dial", dragnet surveillance of people with nothing at all to do with terrorism began at once. As Marty Lederman, at that time a law professor, noted: