Let's go with the overview: Today's revelation in the New York Times that the National Security Agency engaged in "significant and systemic" violations of the nation's already highly relaxed surveillance laws manages to be both shocking and unsurprising at the same time. Shocking because of the vast amounts of information apparently involved -- as well as the specific targeting of American citizens, including even a member of Congress. But unsurprising because critics predicted that the removal of direct judicial oversight from the surveillance process would result in just such abuses. You simply can't trust government officials working in complete secrecy to police themselves, no matter what the circumstances -- or who the president is. (Froomkin) Dan Froomkin is commenting on Wednesday's NYT story by Eric Lichtblau and James Risen describing the legal and operational questions surrounding the National Security Agency's massive wiretapping of American citizens without warrants. Things apparently got to the point that the NSA was spying on Congress: And in one previously undisclosed episode, the N.S.A. tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant, an intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said. The agency believed that the congressman, whose identity could not be determined, was in contact — as part of a Congressional delegation to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 — with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance, the official said. The agency then sought to eavesdrop on the congressman’s conversations, the official said. (Lichtblau and Risen) And Glenn Greenwald checked in, commenting, Everyone knew that the FISA bill which Congressional Democrats passed -- and which George Bush and Dick Cheney celebrated -- would enable these surveillance abuses. That was the purpose of the law: to gut the safeguards in place since the 1978 passage of FISA, destroy the crux of the oversight regime over executive surveillance of Americans, and enable and empower unchecked government spying activities. This was not an unintended and unforeseeable consequence of that bill. To the contrary, it was crystal clear that by gutting FISA's safeguards, the Democratic Congress was making these abuses inevitable .... .... Note the wall of extreme secrecy behind which our Government operates. According to the article, various officials learned of the NSA abuses and then secretly told some members of Congress about them, and those individuals have been secretly discussing what should be done. The idea that the Government or Congress should inform the public about the massive surveillance abuses doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone other than the whistleblowers who leaked what they knew to The New York Times. Ah, to recall only a year ago, when conservatives regarded such concerns as petty politics. You know, this was the kind of rhetoric that would only be of concern to partisans who wished to impugn the intelligence services or badmouth the Bush administration. Although I do admit this makes the whole teabagging thing even more hilarious.