James Bamford, lawyer, journalist, and former Navy intelligence analyst during the Vietnam War, has written multiple books and articles about the NSA. Here's what he said in a recent SF Gate interview:
Q: What do you make of Edward Snowden’s actions?
A: With regard to the information he released on domestic surveillance, I consider him a whistleblower. He revealed details of massive violations by the NSA of the privacy rights of all Americans. The NSA has no constitutional right to secretly obtain the telephone records of every American citizen on a daily basis, subject them to sophisticated data mining and store them forever. It’s time government officials are charged with criminal conduct, including lying to Congress, instead of going after those exposing the wrongdoing.
Bamford also explains why all of this data collection by the NSA is ineffective at combating terrorism:
A: The problem is the bigger you build the haystack, the harder it is to find the needle. Thus, despite all this collection, the NSA missed the Boston bombing, the underwear bomber and the Times Square bomber. And most, if not all, of the “successes” they point to could have been discovered using much less invasive surveillance. Thus, they should collect less hay and give analysts better training in ways to find needles.
The Guardian reported today that former FISA court judge, James Robertson, agrees that government surveillance has gone too far and openly called for FISA court judges to "hear both sides of a case before deciding" at a public hearing before the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). Currently, the FISA court judges only hear the government's side, which explains why almost no surveillance requests have ever been turned down by the FISA court.