From NBC News:
New York Times reporter James Risen first broke the story two weeks ago that the National Security Agency began spying on domestic communications soon after 9/11. In a new book out Tuesday, "State of War," he says it was a lot bigger than that. Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell sat down with Risen to talk about the NSA, and the run-up to the war in Iraq....Looks like Andrea has some inside dope but I could have guessed that someone like Christiane would be a target in the NSA domestic spying. She probably makes a boatload of international calls and no doubt many of those are to the middle east. If you are an NSA target then every bit of external communication you have is going to be monitored, home phone, work phone, cell phone and email. If they are as thorough as we were 30 years ago then the communications of close associates are necessary targets as well especially husbands (Hello Mr. Rubin), close co-workers and probably anyone that she called from her cell or that called her cell.
Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?
Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that
Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?
Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.
Many people aren't familiar with the methodologies involved in electronic intelligence so it might be of value to review.
Electronic communications are typically unpredictable, instantaneous and transient. This means that if you are going to capture the good stuff you have to capture all the stuff all the time and then sift through it later. If someone like Christiane was targeted then she can be reasonably sure that everything was captured and that the whole thing was turned over to the analysts at Fort Meade to sort through.
Think about the above paragraph for a moment. Someone like Ms. Amanpour is a "no brainer" target. How are you going to find other not so obvious targets? The NSA has turned its very capable ears onto Americans looking for "terrorist stuff". How are you going to find the "terrorist stuff"? That's right...you are going to have to capture everything and then let the analysts sort through it to find the "terrorist stuff".
Someone is going to say that the spying was targeted and that may be true but you have to ask how the targets are determined in the first place. Let's say you are only going to target phone numbers that placed or received international calls in the last few years. If you have called any of the vast number of companies that have outsourced call centers to India then you just got picked. Ask yourself how the NSA dealt with call forwarding. You know how you set up some phone numbers that automatically receive calls and after some security check will automatically call a predifined number either based on the security handshake or the callerid of the inbound call.
Here is a hint. You don't. You monitor and record everything and sort it out later. The bottom line here is that, yes, there are probably Americans on some hotlist that are completely screened. The other truth is that the NSA has the capability to collect and record everything all the time and then go back and see if they can find what they are looking for.
Granted I worked the NSA game 30 years ago and the world was a lot less complicated. We had land line phones, microwave phones, radio, television and assorted other things like TTY and just the beginning of the space based comms. We recorded it all and let the analysts sort it out. If you believe that methods have changed much with the additional technology then you are kidding yourself.
Your communications have been recorded and screened. You might not have used the "secret word" but then you might have.