The program has not only been detailed in classified briefings to members of House and Senate intelligence committees, but every senator was told of its existence before Wednesday's leaked documents, and still there has been little outrage in Washington about a practice that has been in place, according to lawmakers, since 2006.
It's no surprise, then, that unlike the scandals in recent weeks, which prompted bipartisan outcry and congressional investigations, this one seems unlikely to produce a similar outcome.
It appears that even the American public isn't very concerned about this kind of activity. A forthcoming Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll found that 85 percent of adults believe the government is already monitoring "communications history, such as phone calls, emails and Internet use."
"I think both sides have in a way abdicated the role of trying to constrain executive power," said Josh Foust, a former intelligence analyst to the military and a freelance national security journalist. "The Democrats have found to a degree that being tough on national security is advantageous. Republicans to a major extent believe in executive authority and having a strong assertive government to combat terrorism."
For civil libertarians, however, the relatively tranquil political reception this news has received makes it all the more troubling.
"This is precisely the kind of dragnet surveillance and tracking of American phone calls that we've been worried about for years," said Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Program. "The government should disclose its understanding of what the law means, say that it believes it can track the phone calls of everyone in the country not just in the past but going forward without limiting its surveillance to terrorists and those suspected of wrongdoing."
After a classified briefing on the program with 27 senators late on Thursday, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, cast doubt on the prospect that there might be changes made to the program.
"We're always open to changes, but that doesn't mean that there will be any," she said.