Mass surveillance—where emails and other communications are vacuumed up, stored in databases, and then searched for keywords—doesn’t harm anyone in itself. The problem only arises when the information is used to detain, interrogate, or harass people.What a remarkable concept (translated): It doesn't matter if the government violates your privacy, so long as you don't know it. Just think how this can be applied!
The last is particularly relevant because the DEA has already used "parallel construction" (I prefer to call it "evidence laundering") to conceal the source of the evidence used in criminal trials; evidence obtained by the NSA by illegal searches. But since there's no way the accused will ever know about the parallel construction; according to NSA and DEA, and our professor, it doesn't matter.
That might strike the reader as a reach, because after all the professor ended with, "The problem only arises when the information is used to detain, interrogate, or harass people." But his argument also excuses these by extension, as will be shown.
The government likes to pretend otherwise, but the Constitution is law. When the government violates the civil rights enumerated by that document, it is wrong; even if there is no consequence to the government. This is because a violation of law does not occur when the violation is discovered and prosecuted; it occurs when the act is committed. So the NSA violates your rights when it performs illegal surveillance, even if that is done in secret and you never know: The violation exists because of their act, not because you discover their act.
But the professor argues that there really is no violation if you are unaware of the surveillance; "It's legal so long as the NSA doesn't get caught." Therefore, parallel construction, by extension of his argument, is also legal so long as the NSA and DEA don't get caught. Detention, interrogation, harrassment: All fine, so long as you don't know that it was due to the NSA's illegal surveillance.
Our government tells us every day, in every way, that we must always obey the law. But it operates under the principles that, "It's not illegal if you don't get caught. It doesn't matter, so long as you don't know."
And apologists like Eric Posner come along and tell us not to worry because we're not harmed so long as we don't know about it.
Which is a very sad state of affairs.