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February 18, 2014

James Clapper: Maybe If We Told the American People What Was Going On With Our Warrantless Collection of Metadata, the Public Would Have Accepted It

Eli Lake interviewed Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Clapper. There are two grabby quotes.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Clapper said the problems facing the U.S. intelligence community over its collection of phone records could have been avoided. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11—which is the genesis of the 215 program—and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards… We wouldn’t have had the problem we had,” Clapper said.

“What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation,” he said, referring to the first disclosures from Snowden. If the program had been publicly introduced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, most Americans would probably have supported it.”

Clapper then claims he didn't commit perjury in his Congressional testimony. You will recall that Ron Wyden directly asked him if the NSA collected "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"

Clapper said: "No."

This was false.

His defense is twofold -- and his alternate defenses seem to contradict each other.

First, he claims that it was improper for Wyden to ask the question when he knew the answer was classified. This, he says, put him in a "when did you stop beating your wife" situation.

Note, however, that that defense suggests that Clapper knew what Wyden meant.

But his other defense is that he thought Wyden was talking about something else:

Clapper told The Daily Beast that he simply misunderstood Wyden’s question. At the time of the hearing last March, Congress had just finished consideration of a bill to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Section 702 of that legislation gives the National Security Agency the authority to collect the electronic communications of non-U.S. persons. In his question, Wyden asked initially if the United States had collected “dossiers” on American citizens and referred to an answer to this question by then NSA director, Keith Alexander.

Either he knew what Wyden meant or he didn't. He's calling "splunge" -- Wyden trapped me improperly, and I did my best to observe my duty to avoid disclosing a classified program, and also I thought he was talking about something else, whether we collected "dossiers." Note that he didn't consider this last question a matter of classified information.

“I was not even thinking of what he was asking about, which is of course we now all know as section 215 of the Patriot Act governing the acquisition and storage of telephony business records metadata,” Clapper said. “Wasn’t even thinking of that.” The director of national intelligence said he thought Wyden’s question was actually about section 702 of FISA.

Clapper finishes up by saying no one can prove what he meant when he said "No."

“There is only one person on the planet who actually knows what I was thinking,” Clapper said of his testimony from last March. “Not the media, and not certain members of Congress, only I know what I was thinking.”

Update from DrewM.: Drew says this by email.

Reminder...Wyden told Clapper a day in advance he was going to be asked the data collection question.

[Link to story establishing that Wyden's question had been submitted in advance.]

With that notice Clapper didn't have a better plan than perjury?

Correction: I claimed Clapper was "head of the NSA" because, frankly, I was high. Like off-my-face zonked on spray paint and nail thinner.

Baldilocks has corrected me. He's DNI, not head of the NSA.



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posted by Ace at 12:28 PM

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