Yesterday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the foreign threats that menace the peace of the United States. I have no doubt that such threats exist, but why anyone would trust the way that Clapper would interpret (and strategically withhold) intelligence about those threats is beyond me. As all the world knows, Clapper lied last March in sworn testimony to Congress about the extent of National Security Agency spying on American citizens.
During the hearing yesterday, NSA critic Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) began his questioning by stating that Clapper and the NSA had previously made "misleading and deceptive statements" in their testimony. Wyden then added:
Let me start by saying that the men and women of America's intelligence agencies are overwhelmingly dedicated professionals, and they deserve to have leadership that is trusted by the American people. Unfortunately, that trust has been seriously undermined by senior officials' reckless reliance on secret interpretations of the law and battered by years of misleading and deceptive statements that senior officials made to the American people. These statements did not protect sources and methods that were useful in fighting terror. Instead, they hid bad policy choices and violation of the liberties of the American people.
For example, the director of the NSA said publicly that the NSA doesn't hold data on U.S. citizens. That was obviously untrue.
Justice Department officials testified that Section 215 of the Patriot Act is analogous to grand jury subpoena authority, and that deceptive statement was made on multiple occasions.
Officials also suggested that the NSA doesn't have the authority to read Americans' e-mails without a warrant. But the FISA Court opinions declassified last August showed that wasn't true, either.
Earlier in the week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent a letter signed by five other congressmen—both Republican and Democratic—to President Obama asking him to fire Clapper. The letter read:
The continued role of James Clapper as Director of National Intelligence is incompatible with the goal of restoring trust in our security programs and ensuring the highest level of transparency. Director Clapper continues to hold his position despite lying to Congress, under oath, about the existence of bulk data collection programs in March 2013. Asking Director Clapper, and other federal intelligence officials who misrepresented programs to Congress and the courts, to report to you on needed reforms and the future role of government surveillance is not a credible solution."
Unfortunately, in a reply to the letter a spokesperson for President Obama stated:
The president has full faith in Director Clapper's leadership of the intelligence community. The director has provided an explanation for his answers to Sen. Wyden and made clear that he did not intend to mislead the Congress.
Not intend to mislead the Congress? That is what happens when you start lying, you have to keep lying.