Clapper: I Answered in 'Least Untruthful Manner'

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he answered questions from senators in the "least untruthful manner" in March, when he potentially misled senators on the Intelligence Committee about the National Security Agency's data surveillance programs. He said the misunderstanding has come about because he may have a different definition of what "collection" means. 

In an interview with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell,  Clapper said:

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.

Clapper continued, "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."

On March 12, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), whom Clapper referenced, bluntly asked Clapper, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" Clapper responded, "No, sir." He then said, "Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly."

After Breitbart News unearthed the video of his testimony after details about the data surveillance programs came to light last week, Clapper told the National Journal  that what he had meant was, "the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens' e-mails. I stand by that."

To NBC's Mitchell, Clapper said "there are honest difference on the semantics," and "when someone says 'collection' to me, that has a specific meaning, which may have a different meaning to him." He insisted that examining or taking the contents of phone records amounted to "collection" to him and that "archiving" phone records did not. 

Part of Mitchell's interview aired on Sunday. The rest will be aired on NBC's family of networks on Monday. 


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