I think an adversary with any chance of succeeding already assumed this sort of program was in place. I don't think this revelation will force any adversaries into electronic darkness--I imagine any actual capable adversaries were already there. That's one of the most ridiculous parts of these programs to me.
>Im also surprised by the complete lack of interest by the general US population.
I think there will be some major objection and noise from Americans about this. I just don't think there's a full realization of what's going on yet. Many people are just a single debunking of "nothing to hide, nothing to worry about" away from being upset about this. And a lot of people are passionately doing just that.
But if you're going to recruit new soldiers, bomb-makers, suicide bombers, etc., you eventually have to go to where the people themselves are. So someone in the terrorist group will have to dip their toes into those dangerous waters.
If a cell is smart that one person will be the only one who does so, but that is still one link into the overall terrorist network, if the NSA can find it, and that can help lead to IP tracking, which can lead to drone surveillance, which can lead to a boots-on-ground raid to grab the computer (and maybe even the recruiter), and go from there.
Obviously the hypothetical "capable adversary" can be resistant to a lot of tracking techniques, but that doesn't mean you give up. They may very well make a mistake eventually and then you've got them.
The NSA's precursor once even cracked part of a one-time pad because the Soviets reused individual pages from their one-time pad codebooks. Breaking the parts of the code they did took lots of time but by 1946 revealed the existence of Soviet spies in many high-level organizations, including the Manhattan Project, which was a pretty significant coup of its own for U.S. counter-intel.
And all that by pursuing an enemy using theoretically unbreakable crypto...
It's interesting that the program being useful in that way doesn't require the program to be secret...
Either way though the cat is out of the bag so there can be no further national security interest from a lack of transparency around that program.
The NSA is currently doing very little to physically intrude on the lives of the typical American. Like most people, if a threat isn't in their face, they generally will not respond to it. So it doesn't seem real (making it very easy to cower in fear and avoid confrontation, with statements like: I have nothing to hide), and by the time it does, it'll be far too late to stop it.
But I think this issue is going to be in news cycles for quite a while. The more news cycles, the more likely people will start to think about it, the more likely they will run into the friend who feels passionately about it, and the more likely they are to decide it doesn't belong in their America. (Or that if it does belong in their America, that it shouldn't be kept a secret.) It's important for those who feel strongly about this to speak up now.