James Clapper’s sordid history of lying to Congress, America

 National Intelligence Director James Clapper testifies on Capitol Hill (AP)

National Intelligence Director James Clapper testifies on Capitol Hill (AP)

As the director of national intelligence, James Clapper has told Congress that the regime of Moammar Gadhafi would likely prevail in Libya, that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood party was “largely secular” and that the National Security Agency doesn’t collect data on millions of Americans.

Not quite.

Gadhafi ended up killed by Libyan rebel forces, and the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi quickly moved to install conservative Islamists into top positions when he became Egypt’s president. And Clapper’s latest misstep may have dented trust in the chief intelligence officer despite public assurances of support from the White House and key members of Congress.

Clapper acknowledged he misspoke when he told the Senate Intelligence Committee in March that U.S. spies do not gather data on Americans — something NSA leaker Edward Snowden revealed as false by releasing documents showing the NSA collects millions of Americans’ phone records showing who they called and for how long, as well as some Internet traffic.

“Clapper is probably job secure for now because (Capitol) Hill is not calling for his removal,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and adviser to the Obama White House who heads the Brookings Intelligence Project research group. “But he now has an unfortunate record. Another misstatement, and he will be a liability.”

The intelligence director’s staying power shows the Obama administration’s reluctance to unseat the nation’s top spy while the intelligence community is dealing with the fallout of what Snowden, a former NSA systems analyst, has disclosed and what he might still reveal. Asking Clapper to step down would also elevate Snowden by highlighting his claim that senior U.S. officials were lying to Congress about the nature and extent of NSA surveillance programs.

Snowden’s revelations have exposed a level of domestic spying that most Americans were unaware of, prompting a national debate over privacy. He is still believed to be stranded at a Moscow airport.

U.S. intelligence officials have said they are trying to determine how Snowden, who had wide access to the NSA’s computer networks — was able to carry out the classified material he has leaked to the media. No one in the intelligence community has yet been revealed to be disciplined over the possible security lapse that allowed the former government contractor to gather so much material undetected, though a criminal investigation has been launched into the company that did his background check.

“The president has full confidence in Director Clapper and his leadership of the intelligence community,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden, echoing a statement by White House spokesman Jay Carney in 2011, when the intelligence chief was facing calls for his resignation over comments on Libya.

That time, the call came from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. This time, Graham’s office offered no comment, and the only lawmaker spearheading a call for Clapper to step down has been Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich. His spokesman, Will Adams, said Amash is gathering signatures for a letter he intends to send to the White House demanding Clapper’s departure.

“DNI Clapper explained his response … and apologized for the misunderstanding,” Clapper spokesman Shawn Turner said.

Clapper’s predecessor, Dennis Blair, also ended up in trouble over his remarks. He embarrassed the White House by revealing in open testimony that the government’s elite interrogation team, the High-Value Interrogation Group, had not been officially deployed to question the 2009 Christmas Day bomber. He also told Congress that the suspected bomber continued to provide helpful information to investigators at a time when authorities had hoped to keep his cooperation a secret.

Blair was also the first Obama administration official to describe the deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, as an act of homegrown terrorism, getting ahead of the White House, which had been slow to link the killings publicly to Islamic militancy.

The Bush administration’s director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, also made missteps in public, once divulging the cancellation of a highly classified, multibillion-dollar satellite program. And he spilled classified details about how the surveillance act works to a newspaper.

Clapper’s apology over his misleading remarks came in a letter to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., dated June 21 but released just before the July Fourth holiday.

Clapper called his comments at a hearing in March “clearly erroneous.” He’d been asked by Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, if the NSA gathered “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”

At first, Clapper answered definitively: “No.”

Pressed by Wyden, Clapper changed his answer. “Not wittingly,” he said. “There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”

Clapper in June called those statements “the least untruthful” thing he could think of to say in an open, unclassified hearing. In his apology letter, he said was thinking about whether the NSA gathered the content of emails, rather than just the record of calls to and from U.S. citizens and the length of those phone calls. In the letter, Clapper said he could now publicly correct the record because the existence of the metadata collection program has been declassified since the deluge of leaks from Snowden.

Wyden, and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said Clapper should have corrected the record sooner, but they stopped well short of asking him to step down.

Feinstein said in a statement last week: “I have received Director Clapper’s letter and believe it speaks for itself. I have no further comment at this time.” Her office declined requests to comment for this article, as did the vice chair, Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

The leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and the committee’s top Democrat, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, also declined to comment.

“This administration views Snowden as the problem, not Gen. Clapper,” House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said of Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general. “He is generally a very straight shooter. I think people are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t trying to mislead the Senate.”

It’s Clapper’s bluntness — in closed hearings, away from the cameras — that will likely be his saving grace, according to former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican.

“I never found him to parse his words or answers,” Hoekstra said. “You might not agree with him, and you could have a very spirited argument with him. He wouldn’t try to hide it. And that’s a good thing.”

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Online:

Office of the Director of National Intelligence: http://www.dni.gov

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Follow Kimberly Dozier on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kimberlydozier
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Copyright  © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

 

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5 Responses to "James Clapper’s sordid history of lying to Congress, America"

  1. Keith  July 12, 2013 at 8:46 am

    “U.S. intelligence officials have said they are trying to determine how Snowden, who had wide access to the NSA’s computer networks — was able to carry out the classified material he has leaked to the media.”

    The answer is quite simple. Mr. Snowden had clearance, access…and a conscience.

    And, therein likes the national security empire’s HUGE built-in problem.

    The so-called “intelligence community” in the United States has now grown so large and so pervasive that it is no longer controllable.

    With some 4.2 Million persons in the federal bureaucracy (including contractors) holding secret (or higher) clearances, all it takes is one person with access and a conscience (like Mr. Snowden) to bring the whole system to its knees.

    It is often said that, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”.

    Clearly, the “weak link” in the USA’s national security “empire” is that there are probably hundreds (if not thousands) more just like Mr. Snowden now in their midst who, like him, are beginning to see the blatant hypocrisy, horrific waste of scarce resources and the clear and present danger to personal freedom in our country that he did.

    And try as they might, the gormless government bureaucrats making the decisions as to who gets access to such information (and who doesn’t) have yet to be able to effectively read people’s minds.

    This is DESPITE Mr. Obama’s call for federal employees and contractors to spy on their fellow workers and report any observed “unusual behavior” to authorities…just like the Gestapo and KGB used to do.

    The bottom line here is that there are simply FAR too many people now with Secret (or Top Secret) clearances in “the system” for “the system” to keep tabs on every single person holding one.

    Clearly, the “chinks in the armor” of the national security bumbledom are now beginning to show. And it remains my fervent hope that, eventually, the totally unconstitutional “house of cards” surrounding all this freedom-robbing chicanery will soon be collapsing under its own bureaucratic weight.

    In that sense, I believe Mr. Snowden’s recent revelations are only the beginning. There’s MUCH more to follow.

  2. Carl Nemo **==  July 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    One of my brothers, a retired high level Air Force officer new General Clapper personally while on active duty and so too interfaced with his office on a professional level.

    General Clapper is an honorable man and had a sterling career, retiring as a Lieutenant General USAF; I.E., three stars.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_R._Clapper

    What happens is many if not most higher level officrs seek jobs as executives in the MIC or continue on as high level civilian managers in the defense establishment. Some move on to start their own defense contracting business which in these times can be quite lucrative.

    Unfortunately once becoming a civilian and then having to deal with politicians, many of whom are lawyers elected to high office, now your boss, it has a tendency to skew one’s judgement. First of all they are used to following orders so it makes them the least likely candidate to simply say, either I have to tell the truth, or I’m resigning along with a public statement as to why they’ve done so in order to shine a spotlight on the duplicity which has it’s source from POTUS on down to them as high level appointees. It’s an example of skewed loyalty either to the leader or to his oath taken in front of a Congressional committee.

    You have few choices. One is to refuse to testify if it means lying under oath, or to take the 5th in front of the committee which is tantamount to implication of supporting a corrupt regime, or the honorable action and to resign along with a truthful, in depth public statement as to the reason for having done so;I.E., a corrupt leadership. It simply isn’t going to happen. Few men have the starch to do so or will risk the safety of their families for having done such.

    Personally I think General Clapper needs to resign and enjoy the retirement he so richly deserves and to leave the terminal corruption in D.C. behind. All he’s done to this point is to sully what was once a good name within the intel community and all for what?…’the war on terror’, a bogus, MIC enriching canard that is soon to break this nation financially.

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. Pondering_It_All  July 12, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    What are you supposed to say when a question from a Congressman in a public hearing would reveal some secret you are sworn to keep? You could answer truthfully and violate the classified information laws. You can lie, which violates the perjury laws. Or you can refuse to answer on national security grounds, but that confirms the question has some basis in fact.

    The only option that doesn’t reveal something to our enemies is to lie. That’s why I would say that lying to a Congressman’s question may just be the best option, under some circumstances. I think government employees who have security clearances should probably refuse to appear at open hearings or before congressional committees with members that do not have such clearances. And any Congressman caught violating the classified information laws by revealing something from a secret hearing should be charged with that crime and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

    • Carl Nemo **==  July 12, 2013 at 8:49 pm

      Well said Pondering_It_All.

      Carl Nemo **==

    • Jon  July 12, 2013 at 8:58 pm

      “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

      Honest, direct, and avoids all those problems… :)

      Finally, why is a Congressman even asking? Didn’t you already tell them what you were up to? If not, why not? They are your superiors, you know.

      J.

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