Apparently, when Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper misled Congress it wasn’t simply the case of providing an inarticulate answer to a surprise question. Senator Ron Wyden let it be known today that he not only told Clapper in advance that he would ask the question about domestic surveillance, but even give Clapper a chance afterwards to officially revise his on the record remarks. From Wyden:
“One of the most important responsibilities a Senator has is oversight of the intelligence community. This job cannot be done responsibly if Senators aren’t getting straight answers to direct questions. When NSA Director Alexander failed to clarify previous public statements about domestic surveillance, it was necessary to put the question to the Director of National Intelligence. So that he would be prepared to answer, I sent the question to Director Clapper’s office a day in advance. After the hearing was over my staff and I gave his office a chance to amend his answer. Now public hearings are needed to address the recent disclosures and the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives.”
Clapper had time to carefully prepare his answer to Wyden’s questions and purposely chose an answers that was either an outright lie or at best an extremely semantic distortion of the truth.
Even Clapper’s best defense of his own actions is to claim he answered the question in the “least most untruthful manner,” because he used a definition of the word “collection” that is apparently different from the one used by any sane person. From his interview with Andrew Mitchell:
Director Clapper: 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 most untruthful manner, by saying, “No.” And again, going back to my metaphor, what I was thinking of is looking at the Dewey Decimal numbers of those books in the metaphorical library. To me collection of U.S. Persons data would mean taking the books off the shelf, opening it up and reading it.
Ms. Mitchell: Taking the content.
Director Clapper: Exactly, that’s what I meant. Now…
Ms. Mitchell: You did not mean archiving the telephone numbers?
Director Clapper: No.
Ms. Mitchell: Let me ask you about the content.
Director Clapper: This has to do of course, somewhat of a semantic perhaps some would say too cute by half, but there are honest differences on the semantics when someone says “collection” to me, that has a specific meaning, which may have a different meaning to him.
If Clapper is not seriously investigated for misleading Congress it should bring into question why we even bother put people under Oath before testimony to Congress. If the people in power are going to be above this law, both the law and the concept of Congressional oversight are worthless.