What about social networking sites such as Google plus and Facebook that have fairly sophisticated (if difficult to navigate) privacy settings? Certainly there is an expectation of privacy there, right?
If I specifically configure the software so that only certain people will see my statuses and photos, and then the US government sucks that data up wholesale and shows it to anybody with a security clearance, in my opinion that is a violation of my privacy. Those words wouldn’t have been typed at all without an expectation of privacy.
It’s like videotaping the dressing rooms at JC Penny’s. The store may be public, but I expect privacy in the dressing room. The government might have an argument that they can monitor which websites I visit, or read my public comments on a news site or the Straight Dope (although I’d argue the pseudonymous/anonymous nature of my account here implies some expectation of privacy), but private one-to-one correspondence should be off-limits sans warrant. And XKeyScore, among other NSA programs, proves that it is not.
This illustrates the problem the what NSA is doing. Their program was carefully constructed to be legal.
This isn’t a case of somebody accidentally crossing a line- it’s a policy of deliberately crowding the line at all times.
Or it could be that time-poor journalists can’t get the information on the big things?
I know it’s a popular image of the behatted or plucky journalist who works on one big thing at a time, but windmills do not work that way.
Now, if the only thing you have to do is follow up Massive Story X, then sure, you’ve got time to work sources, send out questions hither and yon and keep pressuring for more information when an entity is less than forthcoming.
But since most journalists are probably working on literally five things at once, if the responses from multiple sources are “No comment”, “Not at liberty to say”, “We’re not going to answer that”, “seriously, no-one is going to tell you anything, so stop wasting your time and ours”, etc I think you can understand why stories sometimes end up seeming a little less weighty than a Concerned Citizen might like.