Ok, CNN just did the story. Here's the quick summary:
Jacki "Blog Chick" Schechner did a good summary of how the story broke online. Then national security correspondent David Ensor gave his report. And it was, uh, a bit surreal.
A senior intelligence official has denied that Christiane Amanpour or any CNN journalists are or have been "the target" of any NSA wiretapping (any CNN journalists? how about any journalists period? strange qualification for the official to make). Ok. Not that they'd admit it to you if they were spying on you, but even if true, what if Amanpour or other journalists just happened to have been overheard?
Well, CNN reports that the administration told them today that "by law" NSA has to destroy any wiretaps that inadvertently pick up conversations with Americans or people who work for US companies "by law" it is required to be erased.
Ok, stop right there.
By law? You mean the same anti-wiretapping law that George Bush just broke and just told us he doesn't have to abide by because we're at war and he's commander in chief? Come on guys, I can't believe no one at CNN cracked a smile when they heard this. And please don't present this as definitive proof without noting the fact that the administration says it can break the law and many think they have broken it already. Not to mention, this totally contradicts what the president told us about taping conversations of 500+ American who have supposedly spoken with Al Qaeda affiliates - he's already admitted that Americans can be taped.
So you mean if Christiane spoke to a source who was an Al Qaeda affiliate the administration would NOT tape the call and if they did accidentally, they'd delete it? Give me a break. And in any case, Bush already admitted to tapping Americans so this defense is already moot. Unfortunately, CNN didn't mention that fact either.
And finally, while I'm glad CNN dug into this, asking a "senior intelligence official" to look into this - then having him get back to you and say "nope, nothing there, we didn't break the law" isn't really very conclusive evidence, don't you think? Did you expect him to get back to you and say "yes, we are tapping journalists?"
One of Atrios' readers published a rush transcript that reads correct to me:
ENSOR: Well, John, I'm told considerable manhours today went into making sure the answer to CNN would be accurate. A senior US intelligence official tells use that our colleague Christiane Amanpour has never been targetted by the National Security Agency, and nor has any other CNN journalist. Now, the NSA as you know is the eavesdropping intelligence agency, the US government's big ear, and from time to time, the official says, wiretaps overseas or other intercepts turn out to include Americans, or what they call 'US persons', which includes people who works for US companies, it does so inadvertently. But if the NSA finds it has tape and transcript of such a person, by law, it is required to be immediately erased, deleted, gotten rid of. US intelligence officials rarely comment on who they may or may not have collected information about, but because of all the web blogosphere attention this was getting today, this senior official was willing to look into it for us, and to be quite clear in his denial -- frankly, I get the impression the NSA is as puzzled by Andrea Mitchell's question, and NBC's decision to put it out on the web, as we were.Another Atrios reader summed up my thoughts exactly:
I want to have David Ensor shilling for me if I'm ever pulled over for speeding.
"But officer, my sources tell me drivers from time to time go too fast, but by law must immediately slow down. You don't need to see his identification."