The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper may have lied to Congress when he told the Senate Intelligence Committee on March 12 that the National Security Agency does not collect data on millions of Americans.
On Thursday, Breitbart News broke the story about Clapper’s previous testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee by unearthing video of his exchange with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Wyden asked Clapper if the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper responded, “No, sir.”
Revelations about his past remarks may have compelled Clapper to attempt to clarify his previous testimony in a phone interview to National Journal on Thursday in which he told the publication, “What I said was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails. I stand by that.”
But even outlets like Yahoo! News noted on Thursday, after examining the word-for-word exchange, that this “looks bad” because while “that may have been what Clapper meant,” “it wasn’t what he said. And it certainly wasn’t what he was asked” then:
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 Senator 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.”
Breitbart News posted the video after it was revealed the Obama administration got a court order that forced Verizon to hand over all records of domestic and international calls an on “ongoing basis” and before details about the the federal government’s PRISM program came to light on Thursday evening. The government is even reportedly constructing a Data Center in Utah to store all of this information.
On Thursday night, in response to these reports, Clapper released a statement claiming reports in the UK Guardian (Verizon) about the Washington Post (PRISM) had some “inaccuracies.” He claimed, contrary to widespread reports, that these programs did not “intentionally” target U.S citizens, but did not indicate how the National Security Agency could have obtained information solely on “non-U.S. persons outside the U.S.” without collecting “any type of data” on Americans. Clapper’s fill statement is below:
The Guardian and The Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They contain numerous inaccuracies.
Section 702 is a provision of FISA that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons located outside the United States. It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.
Activities authorized by Section 702 are subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. They involve extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons.
Section 702 was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.
Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.
The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.