This Ends Badly
When our government spies on the activities of innocent citizens "just in case," it tends to make those citizens feel accused and defensive. Many of them, in turn, will devise new means of keeping their communications private, "just in case," making government agencies believe that they are hiding something nefarious, warranting further scrutiny.
With the bi-partisan passage of HR 4681, "Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015," we have solidified our participation in this cycle.
All covered communications - which is defined in section 309 as "any nonpublic telephone or electronic communication acquired without the consent of a person who is a party to the communication," also known as "your cell phone call to your spouse, friends or kids" - can be shared with local law enforcement agencies and retained for a "maximum" of five years. I put that in quotes because there are a list of exceptions to that, which includes "because the head of the intelligence agency that collected it thinks it's important." It also includes "anything that is encrypted," which means any attempt at protecting your privacy is now justification for further violation of it.
In a 2013 interview with McLatchy DC News (referenced in this Business Insider article), former Stasi Lieutenant Colonel Wolfgang Schmidt said of our nation's domestic spying program, “You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true. So much information, on so many people.” Schmidt called himself appalled and warned that the "only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.”
Think about that. A former officer of an organization that has been called "worse than the Gestapo" is appalled by our program of mass collection of citizens' data and communication. Our elected officials - of both parties - just authorized funding of that program and its retention of that information. And we are expected to simply trust those that are collecting it, with a fail safe of oversight by those politicians who signed off on it.
This ends badly, folks. You may not have something to hide - yet - but take my word for it - you have something to fear.