Clapper Won't Stop Lying About His Lie, Maybe Because He's Afraid to Admit He Committed a Felony

Yesterday seven Republican
Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied when he

the Senate Intelligence Committee last March that the
National Security Agency does not “collect any type of data at all
on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” I can save
Holder some time: Clapper lied. Not only that, but ever since the
lie was revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks
last June, Clapper has been
lying about the lie
. The latest example:

Shawn Turner, a spokesman for Clapper, said the intelligence
director mistakenly understood [Sen. Ron] Wyden’s question to be
referring to the contents of communications, instead of “metadata”
such as phone numbers, call times and call durations. 

“DNI Clapper has been testifying before members of Congress for
more than two decades and he enjoys a well-earned reputation as a
doggedly honest and honorable public servant,” Turner said. “He
apologized for the confusion caused by his response and is focused
on working with the intelligence committees to increase
transparency while protecting critical intelligence sources and

Evidently neither Clapper nor Turner realizes that Senate
their public hearings. Either that, or they assume
everyone will be too lazy to bother checking exactly what Clapper
said and in what context. Because if you do watch the video or read
the transcript, you will see there was no mention of email or
telephone calls during the hearing, so it is highly implausible
that Clapper believed Wyden was asking him about the “the contents
of communications.” Furthermore, Wyden made it abundantly clear
that his concerns went beyond the question of whether the NSA
listens to Americans’ phone calls or reads their email:

Wyden: Last summer the NSA director was at
a conference, and he was asked a question about the NSA
surveillance of Americans. He replied, and I quote here, “the story
that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people
is completely false.”

The reason I’m asking the question is, having served on the
[intelligence] committee now for a dozen years, I don’t really know
what a dossier is in this context. So what I wanted to see is if
you could give me a yes or no answer to the question: Does the NSA
collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions
of Americans?

Clapper: No, sir.

Wyden: It does not.

Clapper: Not wittingly. There
are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but
not wittingly.

Not only was Wyden’s question unambiguous, but
he told Clapper ahead of tiime
that he planned to ask it.
Given this context, the story Clapper is still trying to sell—that
he gave a “clearly erroneous” answer because he mistakenly thought
Wyden was asking only about the content of communications—does not
pass the laugh test. Furthermore, it is inconsistent with
another explanation
Clapper has offered: that he he gave the
“least untruthful” answer he could to a question dealing with
classified matters. As the congressmen note in their
to Holder, Clapper could simply have declined to answer
the question in public rather than tell a bald-faced lie. In any
case, the “noble lie” excuse plainly contradicts the “honest
mistake” excuse.

The letter to Holder—which was signed by Reps.  James
Sensenbrenner Jr. (Wis.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Trent Franks
(Ariz.), Blake Farenthold (Texas), Trey Gowdy (S.C.), Raúl Labrador
(Idaho) and Ted Poe (Texas)—notes that it’s a federal
, punishable by up to five years in prison, to
“knowingly and willfully” make any “materially false” statement in
 the course of any “investigation or review” conducted by a
congressional committee. The congressmen note that Scooter Libby
and Martha Stewart were both imprisoned under the same statute.
They add:

The law is clear. [Clapper] was asked a question and he was
obligated to answer truthfully. He could have declined to answer.
He could have offered to answer in a classified setting. He could
have corrected himself immediately following the hearing. He did
none of these things despite advance warning that the question was

It seems unlikely that Holder will decide to treat Clapper like
Scooter Libby or Martha Stewart. But Clapper, having told a whopper
in the name of national security, should at least have the decency
to stop lying about it. 

from Hit & Run

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