In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (shown) made what some are portraying as a startling admission against interest. Speaking of the uproar that followed Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the NSA’s dragnet collection of phone and Internet data of millions of Americans, Clapper said:
I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11 — which is the genesis of the 215 program [Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act] — and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards ... we wouldn’t have had the problem we had.
Clapper indicates that if the federal intelligence consortium had come clean with the American public about the wholesale violation of the Fourth Amendment in the name of fighting “terrorism,” then the spooks wouldn’t be so despised:
I don’t think it would be of any greater concern to most Americans than fingerprints. Well people kind of accept that because they know about it. But had we been transparent about it and [said] here’s one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing.
"The common good." These three little words have been the justification for the quickest and quietest denial of civil liberties in the history of our Republic. We have, despite the wise warnings of our Founders, anxiously traded liberty for safety; but in the case of the current transaction, the government has put its huge thumb on its side of the scale, demanding much more of our precious liberty than even their version of the situation merited.
These “candid” comments by Clapper lose much of their impact when one considers them in context of the DNI’s earlier efforts to keep the scope of the surveillance well hidden.
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Photo of James Clapper: AP Images