Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?
Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that
Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?
Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.
Now, however, the edited transcript glides right past the specific Amanpour question.
The least cynical answer would be because her recent reporting would have brought her into direct contact with members of al Qaeda. In August 2002, not long after Bush began to authorize the warrantless spying program, Amanpour worked with CNN's Nic Robertson on a special that was billed as an inside view of al-Qaeda.
So why is NBC breaking this instead of CNN? C'mon, this NSA story was launched to delight folks who would otherwise play blind man's bluff in the fog. At night. After a few drinks. But maybe CNN will get to it eventually [They do, and know nothing].
And what does it mean? On a good day, we would learn that, if there is anything to this report at all, Ms. Amanpour was never specifically targeted, but happened to be called from a "hot" phone number being traced for other reasons. And if it all happened overseas, well, que sera sera.
And on a bad day? We don't have bad days around here. Good, and better - that's it.
And any White House explanation of deliberate spying on a reporter better be good.
UPDATE: Does the idea that terrorists call in to news bureaus really surprise people? Wretchard and Powerline tackled this in Dec 2004 with the AP.
What does it even mean to be an American if Ms. Amanpour cannot take a call in the privacy of her Baghdad office from an Al Qaeda operative in Afghanistan who is being monitored by the NSA? Good question.
I am having an easy time conjuring deeply untroubling scenarios in which Ms. Amanpour might have been spied upon. Of course, other scenarios are also possible.
STILL MORE: Christiane Amanpour is based in London - I know the politics of monitoring a reporter are gruesome, but what is the law on the NSA monitoring US citizens overseas on non-US calls? I would have said from this definition of "electronic surveillance" that anything goes.