NSA boss James Clapper has officially responded to the allegations that the agency intercepted 70,000,000 French phone calls with a narrowly worded, misleading denial. Tim Cushing at Techdirt does us the kremlinological service of finely parsing the NSA word-game and showing us what Clapper doesn't deny:
Clapper addresses none of these activities and simply focuses on the one sentence that gives him plausible (and convoluted) deniability.
In essence, the foreign collection (although, in the NSA's hivemind, a collection doesn't actually occur until an agent searches the, uh, collected data) is almost identical to the NSA's Section 215 collections. Vast amounts of metadata grabbed simply because there's no legal basis preventing it.
The rest of his statement is mostly true — almost every country spies on other countries. This has been the status quo for years, and while the French government has made lots of noise about this recent leak, it seems to be largely using this as an opportunity to reroute outrage and criticism away from its own domestic spying.