I wasn't surprised by the NSA scandal n the usual way; so far I'm surprised no program of automatic speech and text analysis to trigger listening/reading by analysts has been exposed so far. As I understood it, such a thing was widely believed to have been in place for years.
The BND does probably something quite similar as the NSA does, or does it in foreign countries in order to let others spy on us so the BND doesn't violate our laws itself. Either way; I remember an incident IIRC in Slovenia where a tolerated BND operation was uncovered by chance. The BND was listening on data flowing through a telecom hub there IIRC. The job offer pages of the BND have been full of electronics and telecom technology expert positions for years.
The whole stuff thus doesn't come as much of a surprise to me, but a recent article in Slate reminded me strongly of what I wrote years ago:
And yet, Jenkins thinks that the U.S. government’s counterterrorism policies—which he’s helped influence over the decades—have gone too far. “What we have put in place,” he said, “is the foundation of a very oppressive state.”
"The foundation of a very oppressive state", Slate Magazine
Almost six years ago, I wrote
(...) our reaction to these small threats includes digging our own grave by preparing for an authoritarian or even dictatorial regime at home.
2007-08 Digging the grave
2010-02 The Bundesverfassungsgericht has spoken
2010-10 Digging the grave II
2011-06 The counter-terrorism lie
2011-12 Salami slicing doesn't seem to work in Germany any more
My position is that the benefits of such authoritarian tools are negligible in comparison to the risks (it's no surprise the NSA did not provide any claims about specific terror plots foiled by its activities that weren't debunked already).
You simply don't put your head into the guillotine, even if you think that the blade won't come down for a few more minutes. It would be stupid.
It is stupid to build up the tools of oppression merely to satisfy a desire for the subjective feeling that something is being done about some hyped-up problem. We can make do without, and in fact we would be better off if we used the approaches that really work - and cost less.
Technology-driven intelligence work has been exaggerated for a long time, while HumInt -actual spy work- is widely considered to be very much neglected (by Western intelligence services). Likewise, police forces are too forced to show presence instead of allocating resources to investigation, and policing efforts in the internet are a story of seemingly never-ending humiliations. A few computer-savvy civilians can easily humiliate state or federal police by doing a better job at shutting down child pornography websites with notices to hosting companies with an effort of just a few hours. Politicians' intent; more powers to the police.
edit: A German '07 report about the Slovenja thing.