As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper explains why he outright lied to a Senate committee about the NSA surveillance program, two U.S. senators are adding the warning: don't believe what the intelligence agencies tell you about their programs.
As we reported:
Earlier this month, National Intelligence Director James Clapper was blasted for lying in a March testimony in which he declared that the NSA is not tracking and storing information on 'hundreds of millions of Americans.' Clapper defended his actions on the grounds that he responded in what he thought was 'the most truthful, or least untruthful manner.'
In a letter released Tuesday, Clapper aplogized for his "clearly erroneous" testimony, and said it was because he forgot about part of the Patriot Act, even though Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) had given him a day advance notice of the question and a chance after the hearing to fix his answer.
Clapper's lie constitutes a felony, Glenn Greenwald writes on Wednesday, and wonders: why isn't this a huge scandal? On top of that, it's not just Clapper lying about NSA surveillance, Greenwald contines:
Clapper isn't the only top national security official who has been proven by our NSA stories to be fundamentally misleading the public and the Congress about surveillance programs. As an outstanding Washington Post article by Greg Miller this week documented:
"[D]etails that have emerged from the exposure of hundreds of pages of previously classified NSA documents indicate that public assertions about these programs by senior US officials have also often been misleading, erroneous or simply false."
Please re-read that sentence. It's not just Clapper, but multiple "senior US officials", whose statements have been proven false by our reporting and Edward Snowden's disclosures. Indeed, the Guardian previously published top secret documents disproving the claims of NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander that the agency is incapable of stating how many Americans are having their calls and emails invaded without warrants...
Last week, the NSA was also publicly exposed for posting a false "fact sheet" on the Prism internet spying program that deceptively portrayed U.S. privacy protections as stronger than they actually are.
Addressing the "bulk collections" of internet metadata conducted from 2001-2011 revealed last week, U.S. Senators Wyden and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a statement on Tuesday warning that intelligence officials misrepresented the effectiveness of the program. They wrote, in part:
Intelligence officials have noted that the bulk email records program was discussed with both Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In our judgment it is also important to note that intelligence agencies made statements to both Congress and the Court that significantly exaggerated this program’s effectiveness. This experience demonstrates to us that intelligence agencies’ assessments of the usefulness of particular collection programs – even significant ones – are not always accurate. This experience has also led us to be skeptical of claims about the value of the bulk phone records collection program in particular.
We believe that the broader lesson here is that even though intelligence officials may be well-intentioned, assertions from intelligence agencies about the value and effectiveness of particular programs should not simply be accepted at face value by policymakers or oversight bodies any more than statements about the usefulness of other government programs should be taken at face value when they are made by other government officials. It is up to Congress, the courts and the public to ask the tough questions and press even experienced intelligence officials to back their assertions up with actual evidence, rather than simply deferring to these officials’ conclusions without challenging them.
Spokesman Tom Caiazza added that Wyden "is deeply troubled by a number of misleading statements senior officials have made about domestic surveillance in the past several years."