Reading between the (Intercepted Communication) Lines
I’m going to assume (based on abundant evidence) that James Risen and Eric Lichtblau have more logical sense than Pinch and Keller. Therefore, I’m going to also assume that when they present logically inconsistent facts in today’s story, they are doing so to tell us some of the super secret stuff about the NSA intercept case that Dick and Bush don’t want us to know.
Here’s the fundamental illogic in their piece (and again, I’m quite confident this is intentional). The article makes it clear that it is illegal under the program to spy on US to US conversations:
Eavesdropping on communications between two people who are both insidethe United States is prohibited under Mr. Bush’s order allowing somedomestic surveillance.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales also emphasized that the orderonly applied to international communications. "People are runningaround saying that the United States is somehow spying on Americancitizens calling their neighbors," he said. "Very, very important tounderstand that one party to the communication has to be outside theUnited States."
It goes on to quote our second ranking intelligence official saying there’s no way such an intercept would happen by accident.
"The authorization given to N.S.A. by the president requires thatone end of these communications has to be outside the United States,"General Hayden answered. "I can assure you, by the physics of theintercept, by how we actually conduct our activities, that one end ofthese communications are always outside the United States."
But then the article concludes by giving General Hayden a physics lesson.
With roaming cellphones, internationally routed e-mail, and voice-overInternet technology, "it’s often tough to find out where a call startedand ended," said Robert Morris, a former senior scientist at the N.S.A.who is retired. "The N.S.A. is good at it, but it’s difficult even forthem. Where a call actually came from is often a mystery."
Logic Lesson Number One: It is not possible to stay completely within the legal guidelines of the program, because NSA doesn’t have the technical ability to guarantee they do so.