L. Gordon Crovitz is a Wall Street Journal columnist who has written about the Snowden leaks, and what they show about the NSA's operations, making extensive reference to documents secured by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a lawsuit against the US government. Throughout his article, he gets it grossly, extravagantly wrong.
Trevor Timm from EFF has taken the time to comprehensively correct Mr Crovitz's assertions about the documents from EFF's lawsuit and what they say about the NSA.
The declassified brief from 2006 made clear that such metadata "would never even be seen by any human being unless a terrorist connection were first established," estimating that "0.000025% or one in four million" of the call records "actually would be seen by a trained analyst."
The major 2009 FISA court opinion released in September, that apparently Mr. Crovitz either didn't read or conveniently left out of his piece, showed that the NSA had been systematically querying part of this phone records database for years for numbers that the agency did not have a "reasonable articulable suspicion" were involved in terrorism—as they were required to have by the FISA court. Of the more than 17,000 numbers that the NSA was querying everyday, the agency only had "reasonable articulable suspicion" for approximately 1,800 of them.
The FISA court concluded, five years after the metadata program was brought under a legal framework, that it had been "so frequently and systematically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall…regime has never functioned effectively."