zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » On, or Of?

On, or Of?

[ by Charles Cameron — always trying to read with care, not always succeeding — NSA ]

Dana Milbank in WaPo yesterday:

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper at a Senate hearing in March, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No, sir,” Clapper testified.

“It does not?” Wyden pressed.

“Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”

We now know that Clapper was not telling the truth. The National Security Agency is quite wittingly collecting phone records of millions of Americans, and much more

Is there a signikficant distinction to be made between collecting data ON millions of Americans, and collecting phone records OF them?

Does OF mean pertaining to, and ON mean about?

5 Responses to “On, or Of?”

  1. Chris Says:

    I would love to imagine that this was a careful piece of wordsmithing that enabled Clapper to squeeze through the cracks of language, and avoid answering an awkward question. However, it seems increasingly likely that the tail has decided it is more mighty than the dog and feels comfortable simply lying in these situations, working on the assumption it won’t be caught. 

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    You may well be right — I just think the difference in wording is worth noting.
    This is how WaPo’s Fact Checker reads and rates Clapper — the “>whole piece is worth reading for some of their details, but here’s their conclusion:

    The Pinocchio Test
    Given the information already in the public domain, including about e-mails, it is unclear what Clapper thought he was protecting with his “too cute by half” and “least untruthful” answer. Such important questions — and answers — should not be left to a semantic debate over the meaning of “collection.”

    Clapper in recent days has tried to emphasize how forthright the NSA has been in explaining these programs. But he might have saved himself some trouble if he had been more forthright in the first place.

    Given that so much is still unknown about these programs, we will start this rating at Three Pinocchios and possibly adjust if more information becomes available.


    Three Pinocchios

  3. Chris Says:

    Interesting to link this to Mark’s points about moral degeneration in his recent post. 

  4. Mr. X Says:

    Depends on what the definition of is is.

  5. Charles Cameron Says:

    I’d had that thought too…

Switch to our mobile site