First the Obama administration and the intelligence community said there was no program gathering Americans' data. Then they said the government was only gathering focused bits of data and only on foreign targets.
Then they admitted intelligence operatives were gathering large amounts of data but not accessing it unless a court first gave the OK.
Now it appears there are thousands of times each year when the data of Americans not suspected of having anything to do with terrorism are gathered.
"Can you understand, though, why some people might not trust what you're saying right now about wanting ..., " a reporter asked President Barack Obama last week at a White House news conference.
"No, I can't," Obama said.
Americans would be comfortable with the programs, he argued, if they knew everything about them.
"I am comfortable that the program currently is not being abused," the president said. "I'm comfortable that if the American people examined exactly what was taking place, how it was being used, what the safeguards were, that they would say, 'You know what? These folks are following the law and doing what they say they're doing.' "
But the public has learned about the National Security Agency programs in such a way that every time a new revelation is served up, it undercuts what the president or the major players in the intelligence committee just said. Here are the most glaring examples:
1. Obama: Programs not being abused
The president tried to assuage concerns about the programs during his August 9 news conference. He said he had ordered a new review of the programs, even as he suggested Americans would be better off if NSA leaker Edward Snowden had never let the world know about them.
The important thing, he argued, is for Americans to be able to trust their government isn't abusing the information it is collecting.
"What you're not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people's phone calls or inappropriately reading people's e-mails. What you're hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused," he said, adding that the special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was guarding against those abuses.
Less than a week later, The Washington Post published a blockbuster report based on more documents provided by Snowden under the headline, "NSA often breaks privacy rules."
The documents given by Snowden to the Post suggest thousands of accidental and some intentional infractions. The head of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court took the unprecedented step of issuing a public statement that his barebones staff can only oversee what NSA provides to it. And the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of the main overseers of the NSA in Congress, was not made aware of the internal review by the NSA -- staffers learned of the review of privacy infractions when the Post contacted them, according to the newspaper.
The NSA argued in a response that the infractions represent only a small fraction of the calls and data it is sifting through and they are incidental to the overall mission of preventing terrorism.
Obama also noted at his news conference that a review of the programs was already under way and that Americans learning about the NSA's gathering of their data shouldn't have come through leaks.
2. Obama: The programs are transparent
During a combative June 16 interview with Charlie Rose, Obama dodged a question about how often the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court denies NSA requests to subpoena and analyze the data that it collects. Rose asked if the program should be in some way transparent.
"It is transparent," Obama said. "That's why we set up the FISA court."
According to Thursday's Washington Post report, the court is not given all the information about every request for surveillance. And Obama has admitted that the programs needs review to assure Americans they are not violating civil liberties.
3. Clapper: U.S. not gathering Americans' info
The most obvious misstatement came from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper when he told Sen. Ron Wyden at a March congressional hearing that the government isn't gathering information on Americans. Wyden, who has been a critic of the programs behind closed doors, was trying to get Clapper on the record.
Wyden asked Clapper whether the NSA collected "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"
Clapper answered, "No, sir."
Wyden: "It does not?"