Conor Friedersdorf has an interesting column about the potential for utilizing data gathered from NSA spying to impact the political process. As so many pundits do, he writes that President Obama is above suspicion in this regard, but a future president might not be so ethical.
I don't know why Obama should be given a free pass. When it comes to these pervasive surveillance programs, he and his minions haven't been all that truthful in their official utterances. This president maintains a secret kill list that we wouldn't know about except for a leak. In fact, as many commentators have noted -- including Friedersdorf himself -- we haven't witnessed such a secretive president since Nixon!
From what I can discern, the rationale most often employed by the NSA under Obama (and Bush too) is that anything goes as long as nobody finds out. No idea is too far-fetched as long as they think that they can get away with it. If not for Edward Snowden, all of the programs that have been revealed recently would have stayed hidden and no one would be talking seriously about reining in this rogue agency.
For all we know, the NSA or one of its many contractors has impacted political races already. Since they are hoovering up EVERYBODY'S data, this would include current officeholders and candidates running for office. Not only could the NSA or a contractor use this ill-gotten data and information to swing an election to one candidate or the other, they could just as easily utilize some embarrassing information uncovered to try to intimidate certain lawmakers to vote a particular way.
More than anything else, it would be absolutely shocking to discover that this has never been done to date!