Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) on Wednesday slammed former National Intelligence Director James Clapper for claiming he did not purposely lie to Congress when asked about an NSA mass surveillance program in March 2013, saying he sent the longtime intelligence official the question ahead of the hearing.
“James Clapper needs to stop making excuses for lying to the American people about mass surveillance. To be clear: I sent him the question in advance. I asked him to correct the record afterward. He chose to let the lie stand,” the Oregon Democrat responded to Clapper’s excuse in a tweet.
James Clapper needs to stop making excuses for lying to the American people about mass surveillance. To be clear: I sent him the question in advance. I asked him to correct the record afterward. He chose to let the lie stand. https://t.co/i6jls7I9Em
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) March 6, 2019
When intelligence leaders mislead the public about surveillance, they fuel the cynicism and mistrust of government that lets wannabe authoritarians gain power.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) March 6, 2019
“When intelligence leaders mislead the public about surveillance, they fuel the cynicism and mistrust of government that lets wannabe authoritarians gain power,” the lawmaker added.
On Tuesday, Clapper denied making false statements to Congress on whether the National Security Agency (NSA) used to spy on American citizens’ phone records, claiming he bungled his answer because he did not understand the surveillance program Wyden quizzed him about.
Clapper said in an interview with CNN’s New Day host John Berman:
[T]he original thought behind this, and this program was put in place as a direct result of 9/11, and the point was to be able to track quickly a foreign communicant talking to somebody in this country who may have been plotting a terrorist plot, and was put in place during the Bush administration for that reason. I always regarded it as kind of a safeguard or insurance policy so that if the need came up you’d have this to refer to.
The Deep Stater added:
As far as the comment, the allegation about my lying: I didn’t lie, I made a big mistake and I just simply didn’t understand what I was being asked about. I thought of another surveillance program, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when I was being asked about Section 215 of the Patriot Act at the time. I just didn’t understand that.
In the exchange below, Wyden asks Clapper directly: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
“No, sir. … Not wittingly,” Clapper infamously replied.
That, of course, was false.
The Washington Times reported:
Three months later, Classified documents leaked to the media revealed three months later that the NSA had been compelling U.S. telecommunication providers for copies of telephone records, known as metadata, for essentially every call and text occurring over domestic networks.
Secretly implemented after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NSA bulk metadata collection program was significantly reformed under the USA Freedom Act passed in 2015 and is slated to expire at the end of the year unless renewed by Congress.
Luke Murry, a national security adviser to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said in a recent interview that the NSA quietly suspended the program in 2018 and that it is not guaranteed to be reauthorized, however.
In a June 2013 letter to the Senate Oversight Committee, Clapper wrote that he “simply didn’t think” of the NSA’s efforts to collect the phone records when testifying that the agency “not wittingly” survived their communications. “I simply didn’t think of Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” the intelligence official wrote to panel chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). “I apologize,” he continued. “While my staff acknowledged the error to Senator Wyden’s staff soon after the hearing, I can now openly correct it because the existence of the metadata program has been declassified.”
Some Republican lawmakers called on the Department of Justice to prosecute Clapper before a five-year statute of limitations for perjury passed on March 12th, 2018, but the matter was never taken up by the law enforcement agency.