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Jun 11 2013

This is how the government lies

The recent whistleblower revelations have caught Obama administration’s Director of National Intelligence in a flat-out lie. But watch how James Clapper tries to weasel out of it. What we would call a lie he calls it ‘the least untruthful’ answer.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has sought to explain a statement about NSA data collection that he made before Congress in March that to many ears now rings false.

At a Senate intelligence committee hearing, Clapper was asked by Democratic senator Ron Wyden: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

Clapper replied: “No sir. Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”

Clapper was asked about the response in an interview Sunday with Andrea Mitchell of NBC, the transcript of which has been released. Clapper said he gave the “least untruthful” answer he could:

“First– as I said, I have great respect for Senator Wyden. I thought, though in retrospect, I was asked– “When are you going to start– stop beating your wife” kind of question, which is meaning not– answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no. So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no.

And again, to go back to my metaphor. What I was thinking of is looking at the Dewey Decimal numbers– of those books in that metaphorical library– to me, collection of U.S. persons’ data would mean taking the book off the shelf and opening it up and reading it. [...]

And this has to do with of course somewhat of a semantic, perhaps some would say too– too cute by half. But it is– there are honest differences on the semantics of what– when someone says “collection” to me, that has a specific meaning, which may have a different meaning to him.

Court documents published by the Guardian last Wednesday show the government ordered Verizon to “produce to the NSA” an electronic copy of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications i) between the United States and abroad; or ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

But that’s not collection, Clapper says.

No, Clapper. Your answer was not ‘too cute by half’. Nor was it ‘the least untruthful’. It was a lie and you have been revealed to be a liar. Why should we believe anything this man says? What amazes me is that even after repeated cases in which high government officials are caught brazenly lying, people are still willing to believe them when they say that they are doing things for our own good.

Naturally senator Ron Wyden is not pleased at being so brazenly lied to.

Of course, Clapper will not be punished for lying to Congress. Congress reflexively genuflects at the altar of the national security state and senator Diane Feinstein, who heads the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is one the biggest worshippers in that church. While Congress is apoplectic about some minor talking points made by Susan Rice to a TV talk show, they will ignore someone who flat-out lied directly to them on an issue of major importance.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    unbound

    “When are you going to start– stop beating your wife” kind of question

    Er, no…is was not that kind of question at all. The senator simply asked if you were collecting the information. He didn’t ask when you stopped spying on US citizens. I wonder if Clapper lacks to ability to tell the truth at all…

  2. 2
    machintelligence

    No in spookspeak means yes.

  3. 3
    kenbo

    Lying is part of his job description. Basically, he only loses his job if he doesn’t tell the correct lies.

  4. 4
    Pierce R. Butler

    The Puzzle Palace must have one helluva harassment/rape rate.

  5. 5
    Marcus Ranum

    I did a short article on the Fabius Maximus site about how they’re carefully choosing words:
    http://fabiusmaximus.com/2013/06/11/nsa-surveillance-51264/

  6. 6
    Marcus Ranum

    Maybe.

  7. 7
    Marcus Ranum

    Of course, Clapper will not be punished for lying to Congress.

    Wasn’t some president impeached for that?

    But, joking aside, congress lies to itself so much that if lying to congress was enforced, the only person left there would be the janitor who cleans the sink in the bathroom.

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