One thing many people ask about is what the NSA actually allowed to monitor. In the eyes of the general public, the NSA has become the omnipotent Big Brother figure listening to every conversation and looking at every email.
Before the NSA is allowed to start snooping around for whatever they feel like, they must first go through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). Under the Section 215 of the Patriot Act, phone companies and other third parties are required to disclose information as long as it is relevant to international terrorism, counterespionage, or foreign intelligence investigation. Although those topics are important matters to the American public, their relevancy may seem subjective in some cases. There is nothing stopping them from just simply claiming that someone is suspicious and relevant to a foreign intelligence investigation. Their claims of relevance to international terrorism may be as relevant as random airport searches are “random”. FISA will then decide to approve of the application for surveillance but it’s like asking Dad to go play outside knowing that he’ll say yes before he even looks up from his coffee. 212 applications were made in 2012 with none denied. Thanks Dad!