Perjury By Permission: Clapper Apologizes For False Testimony And The Congress Remains Silent

220px-James_R._Clapper_official_portraitAF cover 4I previously wrote a column how our country seems to have developed separate rules for the ruling elite and the rest of us. There is no better example than the lack of response of the Senate to the admitted perjury of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper before Congress. While the Justice Department has prosecuted people for the smallest departure from the truth, including testimony before Congress, no one in the Senate is calling for an investigation, let alone a prosecution, of Clapper. For his part, Attorney General Eric Holder is continuing his political approach to enforcing the law and declining to even acknowledge the admitted perjury of Clapper. Now, in a truly bizarre moment, Clapper has written a letter of apology like an errant schoolboy to excuse his commission of a felony crime . . . and it appears to have been accepted. What is curious is that we do not have letters from senators like Dianne Feinstein apologizing to doing nothing when they were all aware that Clapper was lying in his public testimony. Welcome to America’s Animal Farm.

When National Intelligence Director James Clapper appeared before the Senate, he was asked directly, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper responded, “No, sir. … Not wittingly.”

We now know that was a lie. Moreover, many of the senators who heard that testimony knew it was a lie because they admitted later to knowing about the NSA program to gather data on every citizen. Later, Clapper said that his testimony was “the least untruthful” statement he could make. Yet, of course, that would still make it an untrue statement — which most people call a lie and lawyers call perjury. Indeed, when Roger Clemens was prosecuted for untrue statements before Congress, he was not told of the option to tell the least untrue statement on steroid use.

Now, he has added an “oops, my bad” letter addressed to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. She was an obvious choice. Feinstein has led the move to erode privacy protections for citizens and was fully aware that his testimony was false. If he were to be prosecuted, it would be embarrassing for her. She has been in this position before. Feinstein and other Democratic leaders were aware of the torture program under Bush and did nothing. They then worked to block any moves to investigate and prosecute torture under our treaty obligations — cases that would have exposed Democratic members like Feinstein who knew and did nothing.

That was the same approach to Clapper’s perjury. Clapper struggles in the letter to suggest that he was confused — though he earlier said that it was a calculated answer. Since the question was given to him in advance (something the public is never informed of in these highly choreographed hearings), it is rather implausible. He now says that “simply didn’t think of” the pertinent section of the Patriot Act under which that information can be collected. It seems an effort to get Feinstein and other off the hook in suggesting that it was not premeditated, though the Justice Department routinely rejects that argument in other cases. Clapper simply wrote “Thus my response was clearly erroneous — for which I apologize.” That’s it.

By the way, that means that the answer to the following question is “yes”: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans? Feinstein and other members have insisted that they are not collecting such data on citizens.

For its part, the media is cooperating. Few are addressing the obvious perjury or past cases prosecuted on far less. After all, Clapper is one of the ruling elite and not the great unwashed public. The result is perjury by permission, a new exception to criminal acts for the governing elite.