Have you stopped beating your wife? It’s a yes or no question, Sir.
To the allegation that DNI Robert Clapper lied to Congress concerning NSA collections activities, here’s a letter written to the New York Times by the General Counsel of DNI:
“Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower” (editorial, Jan. 2) repeats the allegation that James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, “lied” to Congress about the collection of bulk telephony metadata. As a witness to the relevant events and a participant in them, I know that allegation is not true.
Senator Ron Wyden asked about collection of information on Americans during a lengthy and wide-ranging hearing on an entirely different subject. While his staff provided the question the day before, Mr. Clapper had not seen it. As a result, as Mr. Clapper has explained, he was surprised by the question and focused his mind on the collection of the content of Americans’ communications. In that context, his answer was and is accurate.
When we pointed out Mr. Clapper’s mistake to him, he was surprised and distressed. I spoke with a staffer for Senator Wyden several days later and told him that although Mr. Clapper recognized that his testimony was inaccurate, it could not be corrected publicly because the program involved was classified.
This incident shows the difficulty of discussing classified information in an unclassified setting and the danger of inferring a person’s state of mind from extemporaneous answers given under pressure. Indeed, it would have been irrational for Mr. Clapper to lie at this hearing, since every member of the committee was already aware of the program.
ROBERT S. LITT
General Counsel, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Washington, Jan. 3, 2014
Which is why Clapper corrected himself when he was given the opportunity, not only in person but through the attorney representing his office. The only correct answer that Clapper could have given in that setting is ” I can neither confirm nor deny these activities in this setting.” That’s it. Of course, if Clapper gave that answer, the conspiracies would be reneiwed. No one, not even the president can discuss classified information on national television. There are forums for this, but CSPAN is not one of them. Unlike Snowden, Clapper seems cognizant of the oath he swore. As the letter points out, the members of the committee know just as much about this program as does Clapper.
Furthermore, Senator Wyden, just before Clapper states that the NSA does not “wittingly” collect data on Americans, says that there is information that the NSA has hundreds of thousands of dossiers on Americans. This is an absolute impossibility. I have built dossiers. I have worked with NSA certified Army signals specialist. This is simply not happening.