President Trump denied on Thursday that he uses a personal cellphone as reported by The New York Times. Still, the Times is likely correct in reporting that foreign intelligence services have been listening into some of President Trump's phone calls.

But that's just the start of the story here. Because there are a couple of problems with the Times' reporting here.

First off, the foreign intelligence targeting of Trump's phone conversations is likely not focused on the president's own phones. Instead, the most signal-intercept capable foreign intelligence services operating on U.S. soil are likely focused in on Trump's most regular call partners. If, for example, you're an Israeli MID or Chinese military intelligence officer, and you know that Trump is regularly talking to a close friend such as Chris Ruddy or Thomas Barrack, then you target the communications of those friends. As CNN's Sarah Westwood and Pamela Browne first reported, Trump continues to love these personal calls. But the obvious advantage of focusing in on Trump's friends is that civilians are unlikely to have many safeguards against intelligence targeting. And if you can effectively collect on a Trump friend, you can collect the raw audio of what Trump is saying.

[More: Trump: New York Times is 'sooo wrong' about my cellphone]

This isn't just about ease; it's about access. After all, the White House Communications Agency and the National Security Agency make it difficult to collect calls from Trump's phones or from phones inside the president's inner security bubble. In fairness, the Times report notes that Trump has accepted guidance from security officials only to use certain phones that have been adapted, and to use separate phones to make calls and post to Twitter. But even where foreign services succeed in targeting Trump per se, that success is unpredictable and sporadic. Targeting those outside the bubble thus gives an easier and greater return on investment. It also, in the case of U.S. allies who spy on the U.S. government (mainly the French and Israelis), brings a lower likelihood of blowback in the event of being caught.

The second problem with the Times story comes when it negatively suggests that Trump sometimes uses a third, unsecured cellphone for calls. The issue here isn't that the Times is wrong in worrying about that third phone, but whether Trump's feasible vulnerability to intelligence collection is unique to him. Because the Times also notes that "When Mr. Obama needed a cellphone, the officials said, he used one of those of his aides."

See the problem here? The Times' implication is that where Barack Obama's action alleviated security concerns, Trump's action invites them. But that's both untrue and unfair. Those intelligence services which have the operational presence, scaled capability, and intent to target U.S. presidential communications — China, France, Israel, Russia — also have the means of targeting other executive officers in the government. And during the Obama administration, the aforementioned foreign services almost certainly targeted physically-proximate-to-Obama officials like the president's personal aide, and his top advisers such as Valerie Jarrett and Ben Rhodes (indeed, the Israelis effectively admitted doing so).

Regardless, if Obama used the cellphone of any of his aides, he was inviting collection by a foreign entity. Yes, due to the NSA-WHCA protective measures, collection efforts against White House aides are more complicated than simply saturating coverage over all incoming and outgoing communications in the White House. But they are possible. To suggest that Obama's cellphone usage was more security-conscious than Trump's is thus a big stretch.

Ultimately, though, I'm not convinced that intercepting Trump's phone calls has much material value anyway. Just as Russian President Vladimir Putin and his officers say fake things on phone calls to try and mislead the NSA, Trump's personality is predisposed to emotional spur-of-the-moment outbursts. Crucially, what Trump says in one moment is just as likely to be the opposite of what he does in the next moment. And we already know that foreign adversaries do not know how to read Trump. Kim Jong Un's decision to negotiate with President Trump, for example, is commonly believed by allied intelligence services to be the direct result of Kim's fear that Trump might be unstable and capable of carrying out his threats on Twitter!

In short, the intelligence ramifications of Trump's phone habits are a little more complicated than the New York Times presents, to put it mildly.