Amy Davidson, New Yorker - If the National Security Agency says that it is not “intentionally” doing something—say, collecting records of the locations of Americans’ cell phones—then it is almost certainly taking that very action.
If it says it is doing so “incidentally,” it’s probably doing so on a large scale. If it adds that said effort does not “target” Americans or isn’t “directed” at them, that means it doesn’t believe those Americans—or Congress, or the courts—should mind, because the N.S.A. analyst who entered a search term or tapped into a mobile-network cable had first closed his eyes and thought about terrorists.
And if the director of the agency, General Keith Alexander, says in testimony before the Senate that “the N.S.A. does not collect locational information under section 215 of the Patriot Act,” it does collect it, just maybe under a different section, or with no real authority at all.