Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has now given us a second lie about why he lied to the Senate and the American public about not collecting data on millions of Americans. The first dishonest excuse was that he gave the “least untruthful” answer to the question. Now he says he misunderstood the question.
Clapper told The Daily Beast that he simply misunderstood Wyden’s question. At the time of the hearing last March, Congress had just finished consideration of a bill to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Section 702 of that legislation gives the National Security Agency the authority to collect the electronic communications of non-U.S. persons. In his question, Wyden asked initially if the United States had collected “dossiers” on American citizens and referred to an answer to this question by then NSA director, Keith Alexander.
“I was not even thinking of what he was asking about, which is of course we now all know as section 215 of the Patriot Act governing the acquisition and storage of telephony business records metadata,” Clapper said.
Here’s the exact question Wyden asked him:
SENATOR RON WYDEN: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
GENERAL JAMES CLAPPER: No sir.
SENATOR WYDEN: It does not?
GENERAL CLAPPER: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect—but not wittingly.
His first attempt to distort his own words was this:
“What I said was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails. I stand by that.”
But that wasn’t what he asked and it wasn’t what he said. Then we got the “least untruthful” excuse. Now he “misunderstood the question.” Lies about lies about lies.