Bush can spin, but USA Today makes it simple

For all its faults, the newspaper's approach makes the impact of the NSA call-tracking program absolutely clear.

Published May 11, 2006 5:17PM (EDT)

The nice thing about having USA Today break a major story is that the important facts are set forth in simple, declarative, "what does it mean for me" sentences that defy presidential obfuscation.

From the paper's Q&A-style sidebar to its report on the NSA's call-tracking program:

Q: Does the NSA's domestic program mean that my calling records have been secretly collected?

A: In all likelihood, yes. The NSA collected the records of billions of domestic calls. Those include calls from home phones and wireless phones ...

Q: Can I find out if my call records were collected?

A: No. The NSA's work is secret, and the agency won't publicly discuss its operations.

Q: Why did they do this?

A: The agency won't say officially ...

Q: But I'm not calling terrorists. Why do they need my calls?

A: By cross-checking a vast database of phone calling records, NSA experts can try to pick out patterns that help identify people involved in terrorism ...

Q: Who has access to my records?

A: Unclear. The NSA routinely provides its analysis and other cryptological work to the Pentagon and other government agencies.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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