However, the tenant of this podcast on why one shouldn't want surveillance seems to focus primarily around abuse related to religious persecution (witch hunts, etc.).
I think you mean "tenet."
Li'l story. There used to be a vassal state of the USSR called the German Democratic Republic. One of the hallmarks of German culture is efficiency; one of the hallmarks of Communist culture was paranoia. To no one's surprise the DDR was a bastion of paranoid efficiency.
By the time the Berlin Wall fell, the Stasi had dossiers on 20% of the population. To be fair, this wasn't because of blanket collection like the NSA's. It was peerage based and accomplished through coercion. Nonetheless, if you lived in East Germany there was a one in five chance the Secret Police had a file open on you.
It's important to note: existence of a file does not imply guilt. You got a file if the Stasi thought you could be coerced, or if they thought you might be useful in coercing someone else, or if they suspected you of being someone they ought to coerce someone else into spying on. Basically, the Stasi kept records on anybody they found interesting for any reason at any time ever, regardless of whether or not they ever did anything.
So when the DDR merged with BRD, a decision was made: nobody could look at your file except you. However, everyone got to know if you had a file.
It's important to note - so important it bears repeating - that the existence of a file does not imply guilt. Remember - if the Stasi took a shine to you you got a file, regardless of whether or not they ever talked to you. It's also important to note that the Stasi were the bad guys. They were the secret police of a regime that lost. Communism is dead. The ideology is discredited.
Nonetheless, "the Stasi have a file on Herr Dumkopf" became a standard refrain throughout local German politics for the next 20 years. Secret information, devoid of context, collected by another regime, is still used to color local politics.
“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator,” said William Sullivan, who became the number three official in the bureau under Hoover, “he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter. But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”
"The Secrets of the FBI"
Further, to my knowledge, the data NSA is collecting on a blanket basis is not the type of data that would label someone who could be persecuted on religious basis.
Your knowledge is flawed. The NSA is collecting everything. Consider: Americans are more likely to elect a gay man than they are an atheist. Suppose the Tea Party decides to leak your posts on /r/atheism? Is anti-religious persecution still persecution?
If I knew more about the reality of what the NSA collects and stores, I could certainly be persuaded, but I don't currently so I don't worry about it.
They collect everything. They have done for ten years or more. Read up.
Whatever is in the best interest of the whole (everyone) is probably the way to address NSA actions.
Jealous omniscience in the hands of an unelected few is not in the best interests of the whole.
So if collecting phone numbers/call information that can be used to prevent a massive deadly event then I'm okay with this level of "surveillance."
BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO ATTACK WITHIN US
The problem is in finding the needle in the haystack. The NSA's approach amounts to, essentially, "we're gonna need a bigger haystack."
I think it's scary to think somehow something I say (or worse didn't) could come back to haunt me, but on the other hand I'm pretty confident this won't occur in my lifetime.
That is because you are either a) naive or b) devoid of ambition.
Maybe this belief is naive, but again if this naivety saves me or others from terrorist attacks then I'm okay with it.
How or why would it?
The GRU was shouting at the FBI about the Tsarniev brothers. They still blew up the Boston Marathon. Here, walk with me.
1) The GRU knew Dzokhar Tsarniev was radical.
2) The GRU informed the FBI that Dzokhar Tsarniev was radical.
3) Dzokhar Tsarniev flew to Russia.
4) The GRU observed Tzokhar Tsarniev training in Chechnya.
5) The GRU informed the FBI that Dzokhar Tsarniev trained in Chechnya.
6) Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarniev blow up the Boston Marathon.
Oops, missed one -
0) NSA has ALL PHONES UNDER SURVEILLANCE FOR FIVE YEARS PRIOR TO (1)
(7:40:56 AM) bradass87: i know that approximately 85-90% of global transmissions are sifted through by NSA… but vast majority is noise… so its getting harder and harder for them to track anything down…
(7:45:52 AM) bradass87: im not all that paranoid about NSA / SIGINT services… you just have to be OPSEC savvy, and you’re all good
(7:49:38 AM) bradass87: and yes, illegal wiretaps are used in coordination between NSA and FBI… though its not seen as illegal, because often the data is only used to give leads
(7:59:00 AM) bradass87: 2048… never heard of it being broken publicly… NSA can feasibly do it, if they want to allocate national level “number-crunching” time to do it…
(02:03:22 PM) bradass87: i even asked the NSA guy if he could find any suspicious activity coming out of local networks… he shrugged and said… “its not a priority” (02:03:53 PM) bradass87: went back to watching “Eagle’s Eye”
(02:06:58 PM) bradass87: NSA capabilities… how FISA operates… i even asked a hypothetical question of my situation… and he was like… “if that did happen… doubtful anyone would figure it all out… resources are strained… plus the FISA mess”