On Tuesday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) suggested two prominent Obama administration national security officials lied to Congress about their knowledge of the National Security Agency’s phone and Internet spying programs.
Wyden, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander did not give lawmakers “straight answers” when they appeared before Congress earlier in the year.
“One of the most important responsibilities a senator has is oversight of the intelligence community,” Wyden said in a statement. “This job cannot be done responsibly if senators aren’t getting straight answers to direct questions.”
On March 12, Wyden asked Clapper before the Senate Intelligence Committee, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper answered, “No, sir.” He then added, “Not wittingly.”
Breitbart News unearthed video of the exchange last week after revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, which may have prompted Clapper to give several interviews trying to explain his comments. Clapper told NBC News, for instance, that he just had a different definition of “collection” and claimed he answered in the “least untruthful manner” possible.
Alexander also testified before Congress and not only denied that the agency collected data from Americans but even said the agency lacked the technical capabilities to do so.
Wyden said he knew about the PRISM program, and the Senate decided to question Clapper after Alexander’s murky answers. The senator said he sent the “question to Director Clapper’s office a day in advance” and even gave “his office a chance to amend his answer.”
“Now public hearings are needed to address the recent disclosures and the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives,” Wyden said.