While under oath in an Congressional oversight hearing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper answered a prepared question with a lie. Even after given ample time to correct his answer Clapper stuck to his intentional statement. It was only after the NSA leak that the public had proof of his deception.
The proof is so overwhelming that Clapper misled Congress that Clapper now even admits his answer was “clearly erroneous.” From Washington Post:
Acknowledging the “heated controversy” over his remark, Clapper sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 21 saying that he had misunderstood the question he had been asked.
“I have thought long and hard to re-create what went through my mind at the time,” Clapper said in the previously undisclosed letter. “My response was clearly erroneous — for which I apologize.”
What Clapper did is incredibly egregious because it undermines the entire foundation of our system of government. Our system is based on checks and balances. The executive branch takes action and Congress should provide a check via oversight.
The only way Congress can theoretically serve this function is if they are provided accurate information from the executive branch as is legally required. If members of the executive branch lie to Congress under oath there can be no oversight. There are no checks.
Worse than a possibly crime, what Clapper did is one of the most significant sins against the entire structure of our government that a member of the executive can commit. The fact that punitive actions still haven’t been taken against Clapper for this incident is incredibly disturbing.
President Obama allowing Clapper to remain in his position may set a chilling precedent. The message is that top officials are truly above the law and Congressional oversight is meaningless.
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