Clapper Says His Denial of Mass Data Collection Was a True Statement, a Noble Lie, and an Honest Mistake. Pick One.

Office of the DNIOffice of the DNIThis week Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a June 21 letter in which he apologized for his "clearly erroneous" answer to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) about mass data collection by the National Security Agency. This represents Clapper's third explanation for his failure to tell the truth, and for all I know he is coming up with a fourth even as I write. He might be better off if he picked one and stuck with it.

Here is the question that Wyden posed at a March 12 hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee:

Last summer the NSA director was at a conference, and he was asked a question about the NSA surveillance of Americans. He replied, and I quote here, "the story that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people is completely false."

The reason I'm asking the question is, having served on the [intelligence] committee now for a dozen years, I don't really know what a dossier is in this context. So what I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

And here is Clapper's answer:

No, sir.

Wyden knew this was not true, because as a member of the intelligence committee he had been briefed about the NSA's then-secret database of all domestic telephone records, collected under a controversial interpretation of the PATRIOT Act. So Wyden gave Clapper another chance:

Wyden: It does not.

Clapper: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.

Wyden: All right. Thank you. I'll have additional questions to give you in writing on that point, but I thank you for the answer.

Clapper's explanation for this misrepresentation has evolved since it first came to light as a result of the recent revelations about the NSA's surveillance programs. At first he said the exchange with Wyden was about email content, as opposed to telephone metadata. "What I said, " he told National Journal on June 6, "was the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens' emails." Since Wyden asked about "any type of data at all," and since the word email was not even mentioned during the hearing, that description was clearly false. In an interview with NBC News two days later, Clapper effectively admitted that he lied to Wyden, saying he gave the "least untruthful" answer he could to a question dealing with classified matters. (If Clapper was concerned about revealing classified information during an open hearing, wouldn't declining to answer have been less untruthful?) In his June 21 letter, which is addressed to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Clapper backs away from that admission, pleading honest confusion instead:

I have thought long and hard to re-create what went through my mind at the time. In light of Senator Wyden's reference to "dossiers" and faced with the challenge of trying to give an unclassified answer about our intelligence collection activities, many of which are classified, I simply didn't think of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Instead, my answer addressed collection of the content of communications. I focused in particular on Section 702 of FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act], because we had just been through a year-long campaign to seek reauthorization of this provision and had had many classified discussions about it, including with Senator Wyden. That is why l added a comment about "inadvertent" collection of U.S. person information, because that is what happens under Section 702 even though it is targeted at foreigners.

That said, I realized later that Senator Wyden was asking about Section 215 metadata collection, rather than content collection. Thus, my response was clearly erroneous—for which I apologize. While my staff acknowledged the error to Senator Wyden's staff soon after the hearing, I can now openly correct it because the existence of the metadata collection program has been declassified.

Clapper implies that he was surprised by Wyden's question, and he states that his staff "acknowledged the error to Senator Wyden's staff soon after the hearing." Those claims seem inconsistent with this June 11 statement by Wyden (emphasis added):

When NSA Director Alexander failed to clarify previous public statements about domestic surveillance, it was necessary to put the question to the Director of National Intelligence. So that he would be prepared to answer, I sent the question to Director Clapper's office a day in advance. After the hearing was over my staff and I gave his office a chance to amend his answer. Now public hearings are needed to address the recent disclosures and the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives.

So did Clapper make an accurate statement, as he claimed in his June 6 interview with National Journal; give a deliberately misleading answer in the service of national security, as he claimed in his June 8 interview with NBC News; or give what he thought was an accurate answer to a question he mistakenly believed Wyden had asked, as he claims in his June 21 letter to Feinstein? All three of these things cannot possibly be true, and probably none of them is. Clapper's noble-lie explanation implies that he refused to acknowledge the NSA's telephone-record dragnet because it was classified; it would be more accurate to say the program was classified so that officials like Clapper would not have to acknowledge it.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • yonemoto||

    clearly wyden meant,

    Does the NSA collect any (type of data)

    And clapper thought he meant

    Does the NSA collect (any type) of data

    fuck you, that's why.

  • edwardmartin321||

    my co-worker's step-aunt makes $76 every hour on the computer. She has been unemployed for six months but last month her pay check was $21126 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site.... www.cnn13.com

  • John||

    God what a piece of shit. I wouldn't like him, but I could at least respect him for saying "I lied for the good of the country". I wouldn't like that but it does at least show a bit of integrity. This guy is such a fucking scumbag he can't even do that.

  • Agammamon||

    What happened to the Ollie North's?

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    They were cleared of criminal wrongdoing because their prosecutor decided to prosecute with evidence gained through immunized congressional testimony. Or something like that.

  • Agammamon||

    I know - my point was Ollie and co flew the "for the good of the country" flag. Still a piece of shit though.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Ollie North took the dive for a GOP president. John is good with that.

  • Sevo||

    Dipshit says:
    "Look over there!"
    Go fuck your daddy.

  • tarran||

    Stop talking to it like it's a human being, and it will wander away!

  • General Butt Naked||

    Stop talking to it like it's a human being, and it will wander away!

    That's how sevo talks to human beings?

    Jesus.

  • PapayaSF||

    I'm not saying that Clapper doesn't deserve the shit he's getting in this thread, but suddenly I am feeling sorry for the guy. Some of what he does is perfectly valid, but due to mission creep and 9/11 and continued bipartisan support, it's gotten out of control. He's got to do a technically and legally and morally complex job, publicly answer to different sets of political masters, and not reveal secrets. He's kind of in an impossible situation.

  • John Thacker||

    The proper response is to say something like "it is difficult to respond to the question in this setting as either confirming or denying could possibly reveal classified information."

    Sounds bad, of course, but it is what Alberto Gonzalez did in a similar situation.

  • PapayaSF||

    That would have been better.

  • anon||

    God what a piece of shit. I wouldn't like him, but I could at least respect him for saying "I lied for the good of the country".

    There is the part of you expecting the head of a spy agency to tell you the truth. I think that's expecting just a bit too much, and I don't think that brings his integrity into question.

    Not trying to defend the guy, but really, if I'm the head of the NSA I'm really not trying to tell you shit, so I'd say whatever I felt would confuse you or misdirect you. You pretty much have to be that big of an asshole to take the job.

  • Fluffy||

    He can lie 364 days a year, but when he's before Congress and under oath he gets to tell the truth.

    If a Senator who doesn't like his agency's policies uses that opportunity to maneuver him into a position where he has to reveal something he doesn't want to - fuck him, he loses and his agency loses.

  • gaijin||

    Clap on, Clap off!

    The original sound activated spy apparatus is better than ever! The Clapper can now access multiple modes of communication from a single spy switch. Includes sensitivity settings for terror, political, porn speech and so much more. Works from home, office, boat and car. Not available in stores! Some constitutional restrictions may apply...somewhere!

  • RBS||

    I'm trying to imagine a situation where I repeatedly lie to say the Office of Disciplinary Council and still get to practice law.

  • juris imprudent||

    Normally I would imagine that situation to involve you having the goods on a majority of said council.

  • Michael Price||

    It's called being a prosecutor.

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    Hurry up and resign already.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The fact of the matter is that no one takes congressional hearings seriously, and why should they?

  • Anonymous Coward||

  • Ken Shultz||

    Perjury is a felony, right?

    Haven't we impeached presidents for less?

    This guy isn't a president. He's a president's toadie.

    Why isn't he being tried for perjury?

    Maybe his excuses will make sense to a jury. But we'll never know for sure unless he faces one.

  • ||

    You'd think Obama would relish the opportunity to throw this bozo under the bus. Maybe he has some dirt on Obama or other administration higher-ups?

  • RBS||

    Why else would any of the people still have their jobs? I hope some good shit comes out when Obama leaves office in 12 years.

  • Aresen||

    Either you expect the 22nd Amendment to be repealed or Michelle to run for President in 2016.

    (Neither Clinton nor Biden really qualify as Obama clones: Each has their own unique brand of statism.)

  • RBS||

    Depends on what you mean by "repeal"...

  • ||

    "Repeal" means "ignore".

    Just wait for it; it's coming. At least the calls for it are coming.

  • Agammamon||

    NO offense, but the calls for the repeal of the 22nd amendment have been coming for long before Obama showed up on the scene even as a senator.

    Idiots get their favorite in the Oval Office and think it would be a great idea to keep him there forever - because "my team . . . "!

  • Agammamon||

    No need to ignore it - he'll just repeal it during a congressional break.

  • Sevo||

    "repeal"?
    We'll "delay" it for a year, according to a personal blog of some white hose janitor.

  • Aresen||

    Right. I forgot.

    A "Signing Statement" should suffice.

  • PapayaSF||

    Exactly. Just "decline to enforce" the amendment.

  • ||

    There is only one reason for TEAM players to want to overturn the 22nd, and it's because they're afraid the other TEAM will win the next round. The rest of us will be stuck with a statist POS either way.

  • Volren||

    What for? Most of the sheep are okay with being watched over.

  • SweatingGin||

    Wait for a few more arrows to hit him first,maybe?

  • dantheserene||

    Of course he does. That's his job. Spies gonna spy.

  • Michael Price||

    The guy who can monitor anyone's phone calls, knows their metadata, knows their friend's metadata and has spy satellites that can read you paper over your shoulder! How would he get dirt on them?

  • anon||

    Lying in court is one thing, you can tell Congress whatever the fuck you want though.

  • Ken Shultz||

    He was testifying under oath.

    He was testifying under penalty of perjury.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    This week Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a June 21 letter in which he apologized for his "clearly erroneous" answer to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) about mass data collection

    This was, of course, a letter of resignation suicide note, right?

    RIGHT?

  • tarran||

    which he apologized for his "clearly erroneous" answer to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden

    Look, brooksie, this was testimony to Congress about a current spy program, not an interview on Fox News about his college classes. Please don't conflate the two.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Is Clapper Obama's bitch whore or is it the other way around.

    Well, Gonorrhea will be there after Obama's gone, spying and lying for the next plundering warmonger of a president.

  • ||

    Look, whether he lied or not is classified, OK? So stop asking questions.

  • ||

    And who are you? Comrade Questions?

  • ||

    That's classified. Man, this is easy. Everything's classified!

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Even to the Question Authority?

  • juris imprudent||

    Who is Number One?

  • Generic Stranger||

    The guy Number Two works for.

  • anon||

    Nice unobserved archer reference!

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Happy 4th of July, Clapper, you bootlicking lickspittle:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Db1s-eV-Bd0

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Perjury is a felony, right?

    Only if you're little people.

  • ||

    Sparkler bombs are some serious shit!
    http://www.komonews.com/news/l.....75361.html

    Sparklers - innocuous
    Sparkler bomb - VERY serious explosion.

    And not difficult to make from sparklers. Just need duct tape, sparklers, and little regard for life and limb.

    Sad

  • ||

    No, if he had hurt someone else, that's sad. He hurt himself, that's evolution.

    Famous last words: "Hey, y'all, watch this!"

  • ||

    Famous last words: "Hey, y'all, watch this!"

    Or...

    "Hold my beer, watch this!"

  • Jerryskids||

    Bloomie was right, wasn't he? He tried to warn you about the dangers of sparklers but you didn't listen, did you? Neeeeeewwwww, you were soooo much smarter than your nanny, weren't you? Now do you see what happens when you don't listen to the grown-ups and do as they say? Now put down the 32 ounce soda and back away slowly. Officer Friendly will be along shortly to check your pockets for other things you shouldn't have. Don't make me have to make you go stand in the corner.

  • John||

    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/egypt.....38967.html

    God does the thought of the Muslim Brotherhood being hunted like animals in Egypt make this a good day.

  • tarran||

    Yep....

    It's funny, people who deny that their political opponents have any legitimacy for their concerns/desires/fears make terrible leaders.

    The Brotherhood was incapable of accepting that the cosmopolitan/secular types had any legitimate viewpoint or place in society, and thus pissed away their chance to rule.

    Had they tried to accommodate their opponents and made stability rather than revolution their goal, they might have presided over a resurgent economy, increased tourism, and a mandate of popular good will that would have supported them for decades.

    A similar thing is happening in Turkey too.

    This is why I don't fear the Islamist threat... they are so awful at governance, that they wreck every economy they touch and inspire their subjects to almost immediate rebellion.

  • tarran||

    Oen other thing. It was an offshoot of the Islamic Brotherhood that merged with Osama bin Laden's Jihadist Logistical Operation to form Al Queda.

    People seem to forget that.

  • John||

    They horrible governing only matters if people are willing to stand up with guns and shoot them. If they are not, it doesn't matter. Look at Iran.

  • PapayaSF||

    Yes. The communists wrecked every economy they touched, too, but it is perfectly sensible to be afraid of them as well.

  • Agammamon||

    Making false statements (18 U.S.C. § 1001) is the common name for the United States federal crime laid out in Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which generally prohibits knowingly and willfully making false or fraudulent statements, or concealing information, in "any matter within the jurisdiction" of the federal government of the United States, even by mere denial. A number of notable people have been convicted under the section, including Martha Stewart, Rod Blagojevich, Scooter Libby, Bernard Madoff, and Jeffrey Skilling.

    So why hasn't the FBI come knocking at his door?

  • tarran||

    So why hasn't the FBI come knocking at his door?

    It's not illegal if Obama decides it shouldn't be... see the PACA employer mandate deadline the admin unilaterally altered.

  • Sevo||

    Indeed, Obozo can choose to whom a law applies.
    Amendment something something.

  • Agammamon||

    The best part about 1001? Perjury requires you to prove intent - this allows you to be arrested and jailed even for something like "misremembering" let alone actually lieing.

  • Acosmist||

    Fairly sure there's intent there too, champ.

  • Agammamon||

    No, see that little comma - the one right between "knowingly and willfully making false or fraudulent statements" and "or concealing information"?

    That has allowed that sentence to be parsed as not requiring intent for 'concealing information'.

  • PapayaSF||

    So why hasn't the FBI come knocking at his door?

    They must be too busy investigating the suppression of the Tea Party by the IRS.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "Doin' a heck of a job, Clutty."

  • BakedPenguin||

    Oops. "Clappy", not Clutty.

  • ||

    De facto PM Links:

    California passes law mandating that transgender kids get to use whatever bathroom they want and can join any sex-oriented sports team they want.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-20.....ghts-bill/

  • Agammamon||

    Why not go the rest of the way and abolish segregation all together.

    No separate bathrooms, no sex-segregated sportsteams.

  • John||

    What could possibly go wrong? Lets kill Title IX and have only genderless sports team. Girls can right? So Girls could make the football team and the basketball team against boys. You don't think so?

    SEXIST!!

  • Agammamon||

    No more Girl and Boy Scouts either!

  • ||

    Person Scouts?

  • PapayaSF||

    Keep your speciesist and monopersonalitynormative prejudices to yourself!

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    It will be like a co-ed rec league.
    Gotta have at least 2 of each sex on the court at any time.

  • Rich||

    Gonna be tough to enforce "Gotta have at least 2 of each *gender* on the court at any time".

  • ||

    No separate bathrooms

    Starship Troopers shower scene...

    I'm in!

  • Irish||

    Wait, the sports thing sounds unbelievably dangerous. Isn't a transgender Male to female going to be way stronger than any of the girls on the team and therefore pose a danger? If a m-f transgendered person slide tackles a girl during soccer, a lot of damaged could be done.

  • Agammamon||

    Uhm, other arguments notwithstanding, M-F transgenders don't all (even most) look like linebackers.

    There's a lot of effeminate men out there.

  • datcv||

    This is also forgetting what Estrogen hormone therapy and removing testicles does to you.

  • Calidissident||

    True, but those playing sports are probably more likely to look like a linebacker (and it's not like a guy has to be Ray Lewis to pose a greater risk of injuring a girl)

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    It's fair to say that Nong Toom could probably kick many of our asses.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Uhm, other arguments notwithstanding, M-F transgenders don't all (even most) look like linebackers.

    Juwanna White Man

  • ||

    Supporters said the bill is needed to protect students from bullying and other abuse. They also said it represents the next front in their effort to provide equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, just days after same-sex marriages resumed in California.

    Yeah, because there is no way biologically female girls would ever bully a boy who identifies as a girl. Nope, children are only hostile to members of the opposite sex and not each other.

  • Irish||

    OT: I'm reading a collection of Kafka's short stories and he has a story called "The Problem of Our Laws" which contains this section:

    Perhaps these laws that we are trying to unravel do not exist at all. There is a small party that is actually of this opinion and who try to show that, if any law exists, it can only be this: The law is whatever the nobles do.

    Fucking Kafka, man. That guy knew what was up.

  • juris imprudent||

    That guy knew what was up.

    The 'bot appears to have a new vector of attack.

  • SweatingGin||

    Balking wound up and threw about the ultimate nut-punch, so time to make sure it ruins everyone else's day: nut crushing punch.

    Mitchell claims that defendant officers, including Cawthorn and Worley and Sgt. Michael Waller then "conspired among themselves to force Anthony Mitchell out of his residence and to occupy his home for their own use." (Waller is identified as a defendant in the body of the complaint, but not in the heading of it.)
  • mr lizard||

    Wow a 3rd amendment nut shot no less. This one is worth following.

  • GILMORE||

    Anyone notice a strange resemblance?

    http://ifanboy.com/wp-content/.....atcher.jpg

    "The Watcher"?

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    I suppose there won't be any PM Links either

    so the Indian gov't is givin more free shit ahead of elections!

  • Rich||

    Ministers [passed] the measure as an ordinance, after failing to win parliamentary support.

    This reminds me of something ....

  • Rich||

    Poor Clapper. The Lizard People have threatened his family and he's floundering.

  • mr lizard||

    Negative... We only fuck with Michael Bay, to ensure his ADHD explosive reels keep us entertained.

    The natural shit-show you stoopid mammals put on requires little intervention on our part.

  • Rich||

    Sorry, mr lizard. I meant to say "The *Flounder* People".

  • mr lizard||

    Of course we might have some video of said mammal engaged in necrophilia acts with 10 ft gator while eating girl scout cookies and wearing a clown suit. But then we seem to have some variant of that stored for every one of you warm degenerate meat sacks.

  • GILMORE||

    Who let Kool Keith in here?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Nice.....

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    someone was saying france was better?

    France 'has vast data surveillance' - Le Monde report

    The operation is "outside the law, and beyond any proper supervision", Le Monde says.

    Other French intelligence agencies allegedly access the data secretly
  • Rich||

    The French government has sharply criticised the US spying

    Mon Dieu! Tout le monde le fait!

  • lap83||

    Celebrate today by watching dumb Californians try to recall basic historical facts

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRkFDcX_72c#at=15

  • Sevo||

    AP apologia for Obozoscare:
    "What now? Q&A about latest snag in health care law"
    "IS THIS A DOWNWARD SPIRAL?
    The delay adds to an appearance of disarray surrounding the law."
    "IS THE REST OF THE LAW ON TRACK?
    Not for everyone.
    A majority of the neediest people may remain uninsured."
    http://www.sfgate.com/news/med.....646864.php
    It raises the costs of medical insurance, causes general economic uncertainty, gets people fired or reduces their income, still doesn't provide the coverage for those poor starving people. See, it's still a good idea!

  • ||

    As uncle Joe said, it is a big fucking deal.

  • Warrren||

    You know it's true as he said it while shooting a double-barreled shotgun off of his second-floor balcony.

  • Sevo||

    I remain amazed that no one questions whether a white house political consultant speaks for the president or whether the president can unilaterally decree such a change at all.

  • Warrren||

    Way way OT: Mike Alstott just destroying folks. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5usOCipPq4k

  • ||

    WTF?

    Why is there is an insanely stupid article from that asshole chapman claiming that if we artificially raise the price of energy we will all get rich? Is he brain damaged?

  • Warrren||

    He's Chapmental!

  • ||

    The amount of derp around here seems to be directly proportional to the thoughtfulness. Very good discussion this morning interspersed with Dunphy claiming cops have the right to deprive you of property if they deem a situation to be an emergency, Bo making ad hominem arguments against the FF, and Chapman making absurd claims about climate and economics.

    BTW Dunphy, cops, as agents of the state do not have any rights whatsoever. Individuals have rights. Government only has power, and it's legitimate power is severely limited by the constitution. I seem to remember something in there about no person being deprived of property without due process. Some cop thinking it would be cool to jack a car to chase suspects with is not due process. Nor is his deciding that about your house, for any reason.

    You want to deprive me of property? Take me to court motherfucker.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Some cop thinking it would be cool to jack a car to chase suspects with is not due process.

    But..but...Hollywood says he can!

  • Sevo||

    "Chapman making absurd claims about climate and economics."
    David Friedman checked in on that one.

  • ||

    Bo wasn't saying Jefferson's ideas were suspect because of something wrong with Jefferson, he was saying that we shouldn't use Jefferson's quotes about freedom when he didn't live up to his own principles. I'm not sure I agree with him, but it wasn't an ad hominem.

  • StinkEye||

    "... he was saying that we shouldn't use Jefferson's quotes about freedom when he didn't live up to his own principles...."

    Right, hypocrisy, kinda like "I'm gonna close Gitmo", or "Most transparent administration in history...", I'll keep it in mind.

  • Anvil||

    I don't think there would be enough hair to cover that cranium

  • John Galt||

    You misspelled Crapper.

  • Joec578||

    I am concerned that Clapper perjured himself to Congress. I am disturbed that Congressional leadership of both parties are actively making excuses for Clapper. They are behaving as his defense attorney when they need to be asking him tough questions.

    In Congress there is an intelligence related "Gang of 8". It includes the Speaker and minority leader of the House, the majority and minority leader of the Senate and the Chairman and ranking member of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. These eight people and Peter King declared Snowden a traitor and Clapper a hero. I don't know enough to declare Snowden a "hero", but I do know enough that the "Gang of 8" plus King are traitors.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement