Monday, June 10, 2013

Don't Clap For This Guy- Or Believe Him

"Over the last week," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement (transcript here), "we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe. " He added that "the surveillance activities" revealed "are lawful and conducted under authorities widely known and discussed, and fully debated and authorized by Congress."

Clapper did not explain how activities which are denied by the Executive branch can be "fully debated" by Congress.  In March, this exchange between Clapper and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) transpired in a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee:

Wyden: "And this is for you, Director Clapper, again on the surveillance front. And I hope we can do this in just a yes or no answer, because I know Sen. Feinstein wants to move on.

"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 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?"

Clapper: "No, sir."

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 was confronted on Sunday by Mrs. Alan Greenspan about his apparent departure from objective reality:

ANDREA MITCHELL: Senator Wyden made quite a lot out of your exchange with him last March during the hearings. Can you explain what you meant when you said that there was not data collection on millions of Americans?

JAMES CLAPPER: First-- as I said, I have great respect for Senator Wyden. I thought, though in retrospect, I was asked-- "When are you going to start-- stop beating your wife" kind of question, which is meaning not-- answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no. So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no. And again, to go back to my metaphor. What I was thinking of is looking at the Dewey Decimal numbers-- of those books in that metaphorical library-- to me, collection of U.S. persons' data would mean taking the book off the shelf and opening it up and reading it.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Taking the contents?

JAMES CLAPPER: Exactly. That's what I meant. Now--

ANDREA MITCHELL: You did not mean archiving the telephone numbers? 


ANDREA MITCHELL: Let me ask you about the content--

JAMES CLAPPER: And this has to do with of course somewhat of a semantic, perhaps some would say too-- too cute by half. But it is-- there are honest differences on the semantics of what-- when someone says "collection" to me, that has a specific meaning, which may have a different meaning to him.

No, "collection" has the same meaning to Clapper as it does to Wyden, which would include "obtain" or "acquire."  That's the only reasonable conclusion, given that Clapper added "There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect" data.  If "collect" did not describe the means by which the NSA gained its data, there would be no chance to obtain/acquire it "inadvertently."

That's a little convoluted, but a diplomatic, perhaps passive/aggressive, way of stating:  James Clapper lied.   Perhaps when he was selected by Obama, the President had no way of knowing what kind of fellow he was getting.  Oh, wait- he did.   On October 29, 2003 Douglas Jehl reported in The New York Times

The director of a top American spy agency said Tuesday that he believed that material from Iraq's illicit weapons program had been transported into Syria and perhaps other countries as part of an effort by the Iraqis to disperse and destroy evidence immediately before the recent war.

The official, James R. Clapper Jr., a retired lieutenant general, said satellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria, just before the American invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material ''unquestionably'' had been moved out of Iraq.

''I think people below the Saddam Hussein-and-his-sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to destroy and disperse,'' General Clapper, who leads the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, said at a breakfast with reporters.

He said he was providing a personal assessment. But he said ''the obvious conclusion one draws'' was that there ''may have been people leaving the scene, fleeing Iraq, and unquestionably, I am sure, material.'' A spokesman for General Clapper's agency, David Burpee, said he could not provide further evidence to support the general's statement.

And so the credibility of the United States government takes another hit.  Way to go, Obamie.

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