NBC's Lisa Myers and CNN's David Ensor both asserted that data collected by the National Security Agency through a just-exposed program include only “phone calls made and received, but not customers' names and addresses.” But they failed to inform viewers about a key point made by USA Today, which broke the story -- that the NSA can easily obtain this information through other databases.
NBC senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers and CNN national security correspondent David Ensor both asserted that data collected by the National Security Agency through a just-exposed program include only phone calls “made and received,” but not names and addresses. But in asserting that the data on “tens of millions of Americans” collected from major phone companies was limited to phone numbers, Myers and Ensor left out a key point made in the May 11 USA Today article exposing the program -- phone customers' names, addresses, and “other personal information” can “easily” be obtained by cross-referencing their phone numbers with other databases.
From the USA Today article:
[D]omestic call records - those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders - were believed to be private.
Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.
From the May 11 broadcast of NBC's Today:
MYERS: According to USA Today, NSA has been secretly collecting phone records of tens of millions of Americans, creating, what one official calls, “the largest database in the world.” The data provided by AT&T, Verizon, and Bell South reportedly includes phone calls made and received but not customers' names and addresses. The call records reportedly are analyzed by computers to detect patterns that might reflect terrorist activity. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording domestic calls.
From the May 11 edition of CNN International's Your World Today, also featuring co-anchor Jim Clancy:
CLANCY: In layman's terms -- and we just heard from the president a short time ago -- in layman's terms, there seems to be a disconnect. Is this getting just phone records or eavesdropping? The president says it's not eavesdropping.
ENSOR: He says it's not eavesdropping. He says that -- he doesn't say much about what the program is, exactly. USA Today says that its sources in the telephone companies tell it that they -- that several of the top telephone companies are providing the records of -- people's telephone records. In other words, the phone numbers they call -- not the names, not the addresses of the people they called, and certainly not eavesdropping on the actual conversations -- but the phone numbers that they called. And this is everybody in the country, with the exception of one major telephone company that, according to the newspaper report, declined to cooperate.