James Clapper’s Unwitting Irony: Former National Intelligence Director Dismisses Claim Of Innocence Of Maria Butina

There are moments on television where the irony is so great that it leaves you dumbfounded.  On Tuesday night, CNN brought on its contributor, James Clapper, to address the plea deal struck by accused Russian Agent Maria Butina.  Clapper was asked by Wolf Blitzer if it is possible that Butina could have simply been used unwittingly by the Russian government.  It is a fair question, but Clapper immediately dismissed claims of “unwitting” actions and insisted ” I suspect she was witting.” If that sounded familiar, it should and, while Clapper is clearly an expert on intelligence matters, he is an even greater expert on what constitutes “witting” crimes.

When Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper testified before Congress.  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.”  That was a lie and he later wrote a letter of apology.  While other citizens (including targets of Special Counsel Robert Mueller) have been charged with single false statements, Clapper was given a pass.    Welcome to America’s Animal Farm.

In Clapper’s case, every consideration was afforded him on what constitutes a “witting” violation.  Of course, in the case of Michael Flynn, the original agents and then FBI Director James Comey did not appear to view his statements to investigators to be an intentional lie or crime.  Mueller decided to charge him under 18 U.S.C. 1001.  His violation was simply treated, in Clapper’s lexicon, “witting.”  

CNN never fully addresses the irony of interviewing Clapper on the Mueller investigation when he was allowed to evade a criminal charge on a far more serious matter than the one Flynn addressed.  With Flynn, he did not deny meeting with the Russians during the transition (which is neither unlawful or unprecedented) but initially said that sanctions were not discussed.  Clapper lied about a program that was widely viewed as unlawful and exposed virtually every American to monitoring.

What is clear is that it is rather dimwitted to be holding forth of witting crimes if you are the unwitting James Clapper.

16 thoughts on “James Clapper’s Unwitting Irony: Former National Intelligence Director Dismisses Claim Of Innocence Of Maria Butina”

  1. And His Highness King James Comey just admitted bias, favoritism, subjectivity and corruption during his term as FBI Director.

    Enough incoherence, hysteria and anarchy.

    It is long past time for President Trump to declare Martial Law.

  2. I seem to recall that Clapper was given the question the night before by senator Ron Wyden. What a great country if you are well connected politically and financially!

  3. America is engaging in the newspeak and newthought of 1984 in this Brave New World. Why would anyone engage or listen to an incoherent and hysterical traitor? Why were Flynn, Manafort, Papadopoulos and Cohen prosecuted? Why was Clapper not prosecuted? Why was Hillary not prosecuted? This perjurious subversive, Clapper, should be in prison with all the other co-conspirators in the Obama Coup D’etat in America, the most prodigious scandal in American political history. The co-conspirators are:

    Sessions, Rosenstein, Mueller/Team, Comey, McCabe, Strozk, Page, Kadzic, Yates, Baker, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Priestap, Kortan, Campbell, Steele, Simpson, Joseph Mifsud, Stefan “The Walrus” Halper, Kerry, Hillary, Huma, Mills, Brennan, Clapper, Farkas, Power, Lynch, Rice, Jarrett, Obama et al.

    Lawmakers want James Clapper prosecuted for surveillance testimony before statute of limitations runs out
    by Steven Nelson
    January 17, 2018 12:01 AM

    James Clapper, director of national intelligence from 2010 to 2017, testified during a March 2013 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that the NSA was “not wittingly” collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans — which turned out to be very much untrue. nse

    Some lawmakers would like the Justice Department to prosecute former spy chief James Clapper for inaccurate testimony to Congress about domestic surveillance before it’s too late.

    Privacy-conscious critics say looming five-year statutes of limitations for perjury and making false statements — establishing a March 12 deadline for charges — make an urgent case for action, and that nonprosecution would set a dangerous precedent that impedes oversight and executive-branch accountability.

    Clapper, director of national intelligence from 2010 to 2017, testified during a March 2013 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that the NSA was “not wittingly” collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Months later, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed secret court orders forced phone companies to turn over all U.S. call records on an “ongoing, daily basis.”

    In an apology letter, Clapper wrote that he gave a “clearly erroneous” answer because he “simply didn’t think of” the call-record collection. But in an MSNBC interview he offered a different explanation, saying he gave the “least untruthful” answer because he was “asked a, ‘When are you going to stop beating your wife?’ kind of question, meaning not answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no.”

    Lawmakers from both parties, but primarily Republicans supportive of new limits on surveillance, called for Clapper’s prosecution during the Obama administration, without success. Several renewed their calls as the deadline nears.

    “The time for the Department of Justice and the FBI to bring the accusations against James Clapper in front of a grand jury is long overdue,” said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas. “He and others who have held administrative power must be held accountable to the same laws that govern the people of the United States.”

    “Yes, he should be prosecuted,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. “He admitted to lying to Congress and was unremorseful and flippant about it. The integrity of our federal government is at stake because his behavior sets the standard for the entire intelligence community. The same goes for James Comey, who secretly leaked documents that he was not legally permitted to release.”

    Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, meanwhile, said Clapper “should be prosecuted for any and all lies he told to Congress.”

    Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who warned then-Attorney General Eric Holder that nonprosecution would make new limits on mass surveillance pointless because “officials are at liberty to lie about enforcing [the law],” also renewed his call for charges.

  4. Lying under oath was the least of Clapper’s crimes. Leading the violation of the constitutional rights of millions of Americans should have him in the Graystone Hotel.

  5. Prof. thanks for your wonderful insight always. A case of different legal strokes for different folks.

  6. Crapper is part of the Deep State. Obstructionist, obtrusive, reactionary, saboteurs of the entrenched bureaucracy. Now he is a talking head annointed by CNN as some kind of white hat guy. Sad!

  7. Of course Clapper’s right. Clearly the laws of the land don’t apply to them. But I think this has been remedied before if I’m not mistaken.

  8. And it’s worse than that. Clapper was under oath when he made his statement, so it was perjury (i.e., lying about a material fact or matter). Flynn was speaking informally with FBI agents, not under oath but still obligated by law to tell the truth (if he chose to speak with him).

  9. Jonathan Turley, I have to wonder whether your final sentence is factually correct.

    1. Since there is a double standard you may never know except by applying what level of ‘wits’ you bring to the table which seem to fall into ‘clap’ing for one side to any degree and against another to a much different level. One get full applaud the other twosilent finger tips regardless of minor obstacles such as those provided when Constitutional law enters the picture An advantage the left has over mere citizens So…. we are left with clapwits such as those who vote against DACA bills on one hand then claim it was really someone elses fault with the two fingered version.

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