The most truth he could tell was a lie and that was not his fault…

james_clapper2James Clapper, director of national intelligence, responded in an open hearing to Senator Ron Wyden’s question about broad-based collection of Americans’ private information by the NSA by saying that no such collection was being done.  Subsequently we learned that wasn’t true and that Clapper knew he would be asked.  Some believe he should be prosecuted for lying to Congress; he has apologized and characterized his response as “the least untruthful” he could make in the circumstances.  Much as I dislike what the NSA is doing and applaud, mutedly since he has a constitutional right to say what he wishes on the Senate floor and has not used it, Senator Wyden’s persistence in pointing to intelligence service activities which run contrary to how I understood the law and constitution to require them to be conducted, I stand with Clapper here.

Clapper told the most truth he could which was a lie!

James Clapper was testifying in a public hearing and was asked a question the truthful answer to which was classified.  He simply could not answer truthfully in that forum.  Senator Wyden’s having notified him in advance  that he would ask it did not relieve him of his responsibility to conceal the classified answer.

Clapper and General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, have, in my opinion, demonstrated at best a cavalier lack of concern for the civil liberties of their fellow citizens and followed up by aggressively defending themselves rather than giving serious heed to the policy questions raised by the revelations of the agencies’ activities.  I am disappointed in both.  Never the less, I do not wish to give them similar treatment; Clapper in this case ought never have been asked the question and having been asked, he could only answer as he did.

At this time in our history only the most scrupulous judgements will benefit us long-term.  Attempting to “call-out” Clapper served no public interest.

They Know Much More Than You Think by James Bamford | The New York Review of Books

National Security Agency Seal
National Security Agency Seal (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

 

“In a recent New York Review blog post, Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch and a former federal prosecutor, commented that “upon scrutiny” many of the plots referred to by the NSA

 

appear in fact to have been uncovered not because of the mass collection of our metadata but through more traditional surveillance of particular phone numbers or e-mail addresses—the kinds of targeted inquiries that easily would have justified a judicial order allowing review of records kept by communications companies or even monitoring the content of those communications.”

 

They Know Much More Than You Think by James Bamford | The New York Review of Books.

 

James Bamford has written more about the NSA over a longer period than anyone I know.  This piece in the NYRB is worth reading.