Under pressure from the public and media, it appears that President Obama has decided not to appoint Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (shown in photo) to head an “independent” group tasked with reviewing practices at the National Security Agency (NSA).
In a statement to The Hill, White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said, “Director Clapper will not be a part of the group, and is not leading or directing the group’s efforts.” “The White House is selecting the members of the Review Group, consulting appropriately with the Intelligence Community,” she added.
The memo issued by President Obama on Monday claims he wants to bring greater transparency to the NSA’s surveillance activities and thus “maintain the public trust” in the federal government.
Although it now appears that he has changed his mind, it is telling that the president’s purported first step toward transparency was originally to hire the man (Clapper) who lied to Congress about the scope of the surveillance to shine the light of disclosure into the shadowy recesses of NSA record collection and monitoring.
During a March 2013 hearing, for example, Clapper told Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that the NSA does not “wittingly” collect data on the electronic communications of “millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”
Two months later, however, revelations resulting from the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden proved that Clapper lied. When confronted about his potential perjury, Clapper said he gave the “least untruthful” answer he could think of at the time and later apologized to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for his “clear erroneous” statement in his testimony.
One can imagine the chaos that would be created if the “least untruthful” standard was adopted in courtrooms around the country. Unlike common criminals, however, Clapper will not be held accountable for his crimes.
Clapper’s mealy-mouthed mea culpa, calling an outright lie an “erroneous” statement, is typical of the confused babble that is the lingua franca of Washington, D.C. That said, there is no reason that Americans should sit idly by while their federal representatives let Clapper skate.
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Photo of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: AP Images