The denials are coming fast and furious in regards to the "spying" scandal. We aren't listening to your phone calls. We simply are collecting non-identifiable mega data. We aren't trying to target Americans. If you are guilty of no crime, you have nothing to worry about.
As I sit here listening to the various disclaimers, it reminded me of something: Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. If you are not familiar with this parlor game, here's a description from Wikipedia.
Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a parlor game based on the "six degrees of separation" concept, which posits that any two people on Earth are, on average, about six acquaintance links apart. That idea eventually morphed into this parlor game, wherein movie buffs challenge each other to find the shortest path between an arbitrary actor and Hollywood character actor Kevin Bacon. It rests on the assumption that any individual involved in the Hollywood, California, film industry can be linked through his or her film roles to Kevin Bacon within six steps. The game requires a group of players to try to connect any such individual to Kevin Bacon as quickly as possible and in as few links as possible.
Applying this concept to the spying scandal, the government doesn't really need to listen into actual conversations to figure out who is conversing and what they might be talking about. All they need are the identifiers within the metadata and I'm guessing that within six steps they will be able to figure all the information they are now saying they aren't pursuing or collecting.
You see, their denials are crafted in such a way that they can appear to be saying something that isn't altogether or even remotely true. Lawyers and politicians do this all the time. They research the law to figure out how to phrase things that would lead the average listener to a different understanding than what is really going on or has taken place. If later caught in a perceived lie, they can immediately act innocent and say, "I never said THAT. Where in the world did you get that crazy idea?"