NSA Now Claims DNI Director Clapper Merely Forgot About Massive Surveillance System Targeting Millions of Citizens

Robert-Litt220px-James_R._Clapper_official_portraitThe National Security Agency is still struggling to explain what many denounced as the uncharged act of perjury by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in denying the existence of the secret NSA surveillance program targeting the communications of all Americans. If you recall, the first explanation by Clapper was that his denial was an intentional act to pick the “the least untruthful” statement to answer the question. Then, National Intelligence general counsel Robert Litt (left) insisted that Clapper “misunderstood” the question. Now, Litt is changing spins and saying that Clapper merely forgot about the massive surveillance system. It was not only massive but recently declared illegal, as some of us have long maintained. It is the latest chapter in America’s Animal Farm as average citizens are criminally charged with small discrepancies in statements to investigators while people like Clapper and David Petraeus and Sandy Berger are protected from serious repercussions for alleged criminal acts.

Putting aside the shifting explanations, what does it say about the alleged importance of this program that Clapper could not even recall its existence? Every American was subject to this program but it simply was not important enough for Clapper to recall.

As noted earlier, people like Clapper are often given questions or subjects in advance of testimony. This question was given to Clapper the day before the hearing.

No one seems to have noticed the change in explanation. You may recall that when 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.” Later, Clapper admitted to giving a false answer to Congress but explained 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.

Then came the misunderstood spin from Litt, who seems to confuse his position as general counsel with being defense counsel. Now, Litt is insisting that Clapper just forgot: “It was perfectly clear that he had absolutely forgotten the existence of the 215 program. . . . We all make mistakes.” Yes, just like the massive illegal surveillance program itself.

So it is not “perfectly clear” that Clapper forgot after it was “perfectly clear” that he lied to protect classified information or it was “perfectly clear” that he “misunderstood” the question. Indeed, that prior “perfect understanding” came from Litt himself who now perfectly understands that it was not the reason. In one year, it will be perfectly understood that the hearing and the answer never occurred.

That is why we call it a more perfect union.

49 thoughts on “NSA Now Claims DNI Director Clapper Merely Forgot About Massive Surveillance System Targeting Millions of Citizens”

  1. Max – that is one of my favorite quotes.

    It’s easy to just assume that the US will last forever as a bastion of free speech and human rights. But no civilization lasted forever. They all changed or faded into antiquity. Our apathy will allow the US to change in ways we never thought possible.

    If someone told me a few years ago that the NSA would spy on its own people, and the IRS would punish political opponents of the sitting president, I would have handed them a tinfoil hat. And yet, here we are.

  2. From the way back machine…
    A Republic, if we can keep it
    To compromise liberty for safety is the surest way not to have either.

    Franklin was one of the best known of the “Framers” working on the new US Constitution. Powel ran up to Franklin and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin turned to her and said what are perhaps the most chilling words uttered by any Framer. He said, “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”

    Franklin’s words were more than a boast. They were a warning. The curious thing about a democratic system is that it contains the seeds of its own demise. Freedom is not something guaranteed by any parchment or promise. It is earned by each generation which must jealously protect it from threats, not only from outside, but from within a nation.

  3. Karen s
    Funny you mentioned Nixon…
    I posted a tweet from Greenwald with an article about Nixon and spying from Time Magazine.

    But alas… The tweet is blocked.

  4. Max – I completely agree. Any political party will abuse power if it can get away with it. Nixon pushed it as far as he could go, and Obama is doing so now.

    We shouldn’t judge wrongdoing through political glasses. It’s either wrong, no matter who did it, or it’s not.

    Plus, if we just blame one party or another, we won’t reign in government agencies and just leave it to the next election. But anyone can and will become a despot if given unbridled power. That’s true of the abuses of the IRS, the NSA spying, the VA fraud. The common thread is that the rules do not apply to government employees.

    If these abuses of power were met with massive protests, I believe our politicians would change their tune and we’d see some real change. We can’t complain about accountability when we don’t have the will to demand it.

  5. An interview… 3.5 years.

    Yes, Sterling got the same sentence as Petraeus did…
    … With an additional 3.5 years behind bars.

    Maybe Jeffery should have had a sexual relationship with his reporter?

  6. Karen S
    But we are letting this happen with our jaded attitude towards politics and government employees.
    = = =
    Exactly. When we allow these conversations, and I don’t mean you and I specifically, but in general “we Americans”, allow the conversations to devolve into Democrats did it or Republicans did it, etc. i.e. blame Bush or blame Obama, we’re removing our participation in the election of these corrupt and, dare I say, criminally complicit elected officials all together. Then, when something like the NSA comes up, the Nation has been well, or should I say Orwell, taught to blame the other team… and the cycle continues.

    Karen S,
    I blame the electorate… Who vote Party over Principles.
    In the mean time, both Parties are screwing our Principles.

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