A reader at TPM speculates:
But it fits together if what was being proposed was to look, either prosepectively or retrospectively, at everyone's E-mail -- which the NSA is reportedly capable of -- and then filter it for certain key words. Presumably, those messages which meet certain search criteria would then be culled for further study, or longer-term monitoring might be done of both the sender and recipient.So perhaps they didn't get court approval for the simple reason that rather than wanting to tap specific individuals' communications, they just tapped us all - putting a tap directly on the internet backbone and siphoning off anything that hit certain keywords for review?
That sort of dizzying effort would raise both technical and legal issues, such as: what technical capabilities and safeguards are possible to implement; what is the legality of read-and-discard searches, and so on. Indeed, since I believe that retrospective searches could be done, the Administration might be seeking to look at all prior communications as well, once a hit was found. No FISA authorization would be possible, since this sort of activity was not contemplated by that law.
If this proves to be the case, there is no end to the shit they just stepped in.