For an interesting view on law, politics, privacy and technology read West Virginia Senator Rockefeller's letter involving the recent NSA domestic spy program.
The comments in the following post suggest that the capability of the NSA extend to the ability to perform a prospective or retrospective look at everyone's email messages (and I mean everyone) and filtering the information using key word searches. If a message hits with certain key words there would be the ability to dig deeper into that sender and receivers emails or implement longer term monitoring.
I am not at all surprised that the NSA is capable of such detailed and thorough searches of electronic communications, especially when comparing this to the capabilities of Google Earth (download this for your kids -- it provides hours of fun). If Google Earth provides every citizen this much detail of the NSA (type in National Security Agency into Google Earth) -- just think what the NSA is capable of seeing.
The NSA and USA PATRIOT Act a fascinating look at the legal and technology issues that collide when looking at today's wiretap issues involving email, instant messaging, electronic communication, etc. As a lawyer concerned with privacy issues I jump back and forth between support for and against the use of technology to protect citizens of the United States. I often echo the quote by Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, "You already have zero privacy -- get over it." It sure gives new meaning to search,seizure and plain view.
I also find it fascinating that Senator Rockefeller chose to use a "handwritten letter" to convey his concerns.
To read more indepth analysis of the complex legal issues involved check out this post and the followup comments by The Volokh Conspiracy.
Thanks to Marty Schwimmer at Between Lawyers for the link on this information.