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General Clapper Appears To Have Misled Congress And Public About NSA Program

In testimony before Congress the Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper claimed there was no program to collect information on American citizens.

SENATOR RON WYDEN: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?


SENATOR WYDEN: It does not?

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

That is a direct denial of the information revealed by Edward Snowden regarding the NSA’s programs,  which Clapper surely knew about. Clapper’s testimony at first glance appears to be intended to mislead Congress and the public.

Clapper has now clarified his remarks in an interview with the National Journal.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday that he stood by what he told Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in March when he said that the National Security Agency does not “wittingly” collect data on millions of Americans.

“What I said was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails. I stand by that,” Clapper told National Journal in a telephone interview.

As the video demonstrates, that is not what he said. He first gave a flat denial “No sir.” Then, when Clapper was pressed, he said if information was collected on Americans it was done “unwittingly,” which is also a knowingly false answer.

Whether or not there will be consequences for Clapper’s deceptive testimony is anyone’s guess. Senator Diane Feinstein has already indicated a disinterest in holding Clapper accountable , which may be indicative of a larger partisan mindset in the Senate about providing accountability to Obama Administration officials. While appearing on This Week the Senator reacted to video of Clapper’s testimony thus:

FEINSTEIN: Well, I think this is very hard. There is no more direct or honest person than Jim Clapper, and I think both Mike and I know that. You can misunderstand the question. This is one of the dilemmas of talking about it. He could have thought the question had content or something, but it is true that this is a wide collection of phone records, as Mike said. No name, no content. But the number to number, the length of time, the kind of thing that’s on the telephone bill, and we have to deal with that.

So not only will intelligence officials keep the public in the dark about the Surveillance State but so will U.S. Senators, even covering up for dishonest testimony. It is now more clear than ever that leaks are vital to protecting what is left of American liberty. Thank you Edward Snowden.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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